Criticism of LeBron has gone way too far 

Today was one of those days where it was nice to wake up in the morning and be named Paul Gackle rather than LeBron James.

No one is making fun of my hairline on Twitter, besides a few rabid Colin Kaepernick supporters, no one is blasting me for not writing as eloquently as Red Smith and I'm not hated by most of America.

Like most kids of my generation, I took shots in the driveway imagining that I was Michael Jordan conquering evil in the NBA Finals. But somewhere between then and now, the role of sports megastar in America flipped from hero to villain.

The Miami Heat need a win in Game 4 of the Finals tonight to avoid falling into a 3-1 hole against a San Antonio Spurs team that knows how to finish the job and, once again, the masses are lining up to watch King James fail.

James, of course, stumbled in Game 3, uncorking a national celebration. It raises the question: Why does everybody despise this guy so much?

I get it — "The Decision" was distasteful. LeBron spat in the face of his hometown fans and painted an ugly self-portrait with the indelible phrase: "I'm going to take my talents to South Beach." But that's it? No criminal acts, no unsportsmanlike behavior, just a 25-year-old kid at the time buying into the cult of celebrity that's hovered over him since high school.

In short, we hate LeBron because he's human.

We put him up on a pedestal for worship, next to Jordan, Lance Armstrong and Tiger Woods, and as soon as he shows human flaws, we tear him down and root for his demise.

LeBron left home because he wanted to play with a better group of players — isn't that the objective of sports, to reach the highest point of excellence as part of a team? Wouldn't he be more of an egomaniac if he needed to win on a lesser team to prove his individual greatness?

We criticize him for leaving Cleveland to enjoy the glitz and glamour of Miami, but how many of us moved from somewhere else to benefit from everything The City has to offer?

In reality, LeBron is the type of player you'd want your team to mimic if you were coaching youth basketball. He does whatever his team needs to win: scores, plays defense, rebounds, passes and goes into the paint.

He's been the best player of his generation since he was a 14-year-old and yet he still works on the weakest parts of his game. His mid-range jumper has improved dramatically since his first trip to the Finals in 2007, he's now a 3-point threat and in the last two years he's developed a post game that gives Erik Spoelstra the option of using him in all five positions on the floor.

But if we take anything from LeBron, it should be his accountability. He never points fingers or throws his team under the bus. He simply says, "I've got to do better."

The idolatry we had for yesterday's heroes was certainly unhealthy, too. There's no escaping the human condition, whether your name is LeBron, Michael Jordan or Paul Gackle. LeBron James is a basketball genius: we should appreciate his talent rather than indulging in every shortcoming.

Paul Gackle is a columnist for The San Francisco Examiner. He can be reached at pgackle@sfexaminer.com and followed on Twitter @GackleReport.

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Paul Gackle

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