As the most accomplished player since Michael Jordan, it is only natural that LeBron James would be an incredibly polarizing figure. The accomplishments that James has garnered are rivaled by none in his sport today. With the amount of success that James has had, it is natural for there be to be some jaded and bitter folks out there, as well as some who hold Bron in the highest regard. People who have had their chances at greatness snatched away by LeBron would obviously hold less than friendly feelings toward The King. On the other hand, people who have supported him and been with him through some of his journeys would have great admiration for such a leader.
James has been an NBA superstar for over thirteen years and he has also been a fierce businessman off the court during those same thirteen years. In the business world, there is no doubt a business mentality. Along with that mentality comes the necessity to be a little cut-throat. As in basketball, in the world of high stakes business, it is easy to make and lose friends.
With all these elements in play, it is not easy to narrow this list down to just 8 who love James and 8 who hate him, but we have done the work for you. Enjoy.
16. Love: James Jones
James Jones and LeBron James became teammates in 2010 when LeBron arrived in Miami. The two hit if off beautifully. James looked up to Jones and his level of professionalism as well as his tireless work ethic. As the seasons passed, the two became even closer, spending off-seasons training together and often times spending entire plane rides talking with one and other.
After spending four years together in Miami, LeBron famously went back home to Cleveland. He also came back to Ohio with his friend James Jones. LeBron made it a necessity for Jones to be part of the Cavalier team that would bring a title to Northeast Ohio. Last season marked the sixth straight NBA Finals appearance for LeBron and it also marked the sixth straight appearance for Jones as well.
15. Hate: Dan Gilbert
Dan Gilbert, the famous Cleveland Cavalier owner, is an incredible inclusion on this list, namely because he found a way to be on both sides of the fence. In 2010, when LeBron decided to infamously take his talents to South Beach, Gilbert wrote one of the most scathing nasty letters about a player that I have ever seen. In the letter, he called LeBron a coward and a traitor, in addition to promising Cleveland a championship long before James would ever win one with Miami.
Aside from the letter, Gilbert was also very disagreeable with James about what type of structure was being built in Cleveland. The two disagreed often times on major hirings during James’ first stint in Cleveland. Ultimately, things found a way to work themselves out and Cleveland was able to get that elusive title last season.
14. Love: Dan Gilbert
As we mentioned, Dan Gilbert would be making an appearance on both sides of this polarizing list. Gilbert was a furious, immature cry-baby when LeBron headed south in 2010. However, it was Gilbert who issued somewhat of an apology to LeBron in an attempt to bury the hatchet and let bygones be bygones.
When James rejoined the Cavs in 2014, there was nobody happier than Mr. Gilbert. The reasons for Gilbert to love LeBron today are plentiful. Not only has LeBron put people back in the seats at Quicken Loans Arena, but he has built the Cavaliers right back up to being one of the most valuable franchises in sports. Gilbert saw the value of his team go from $329 million in 2011 up to $515 million today.
13. Hate: Charles Barkley
Charles Barkley has never been one to shy away from headline making statements. When asked if he believes LeBron James could ever be a top five player of all-time, which many argue he already is, Barkley refused to allow James a chance at a top five ranking. Sir Charles is somewhat of a traditionalist in the sense that he has stated he will never change his top five players of all-time. His top five are all great players, but to say it can never change is just silly.
Barkley also doesn’t have LeBron in his top eight players. He has remarked that Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan are still much better than LeBron has ever been. This complete denial and unwillingness to allow new comers into the pantheons of history will only leave Charles on the wrong side of history as time passes.
12. Love: Matthew Dellavedova
Coming into the 2013 season, Matthew Dellavedova was a twenty-three year old, underrated player just looking to find a way onto a roster. He busted his tail everyday at practice until he was given a contract and became part of the Cavaliers bench unit. During the next two seasons, Delly’s career would be a wild one.
Delly was part of the bench mob about which LeBron James boasted on a nightly basis, as James was very complimentary of his hustling back-up point guard. In the Finals of 2015, Delly was forced into action when Kyrie Irving went down. Proving to be a pest to Steph Curry, Delly earned himself a lot of respect and attention around the league. After last season, Dellavedova was a free agent and signed with the Milwaukee Bucks for a staggering $38.4 million. Delly himself has said none of that would be possible if not for his teammates in Cleveland, but ultimately, most of that credit goes to LeBron, even Delly knows that.
11. Hate: David Blatt
Coach David Blatt was put in an incredibly tough spot after he was hired by the Cavs. Blatt was hired for the job just weeks before LeBron decided to rejoin his hometown squad. When Blatt was hired, he was hired to take over a young team, help groom them for the future and hopefully, someday, lead them to championship contention. Instead, LeBron James joined the picture and the entire organization became a media frenzy.
Blatt was doomed the moment James rejoined the Cavs. James and Blatt had several public disagreements, but, credit to both of them, none of these incidents became anything too toxic. However, Blatt was fired after only a season and a half and to add insult to injury, the Cavs won the title only a handful of months after dropping Blatt.
10. Love: Tyronn Lue
Tyronn Lue was one of the leading candidates to land the Cavaliers job before Blatt was given the gig in 2014. The Cavs did something extremely unusual when they signed Lue to be Blatt’s assistant that same year. This simple move of hiring Lue, who was a leading candidate to be in Blatt’s position, somewhat undermined Blatt’s authority. Regardless, that is what happened.
When James joined the team shortly after the hirings, he and Lue became very close, much closer than James and Blatt. It is widely believed that James had as much to do with the removal of Blatt and insertion of Lue. Lue has found a way to get closer to LeBron than any other coach he has had. It’s safe to say there’s a lot of love there.
9. Hate: Steph Curry
The NBA has belonged to Steph Curry for almost two entire years. He’s become the new face of the league, as he was the future and the present. It became clear that LebBon was not quite ready to leave the throne he had built when he started questioning the legitimacy of Steph’s back-to-back MVP awards. James’ comments came on the heels of what would be the most impressive NBA Finals comeback of all time.
Curry led his Warriors team to the greatest all-time regular season record, capturing his second consecutive MVP along the way. James continued to do his thing out in the Eastern Conference and the two were set up for a classic clash in an NBA finals rematch last season. In those Finals, James dominated Curry and everyone else in a Golden State uniform. James snatched everything Steph had worked for two years building and smashed it to pieces, leaving Steph to welcome Kevin Durant into his locker room to help overtake James.
8. Love: Brian Windhorst
Brian Windhorst is currently one of the most famous and well respected basketball writers in the business. He began as a kid from Akron, Ohio who went to Kent State University before following his old high school’s basketball program. His old high school basketball program just so happened to be St. Vincent St. Mary’s, the same St Vincent St. Mary’s that LeBron James attended. Windhorst is seven years older than LeBron, but the two had an immediate friendship when Brian began covering James in high school.
Windhorst and James basically grew up together in terms of their careers. James trusted Brian as a young player. James is the reason ESPN hired Windhorst during James’ rookie season. Brian was able to get the truth out of LeBron and James’ level of comfort with his hometown friend was rivaled by no other reporter. Their closeness has somewhat tapered off in the last couple of years, but there is no doubt, “Windy” will always be grateful for the trust LeBron put into him during those early years.
7. Hate: Skip Bayless
For well over a decade, Skip Bayless has been trying to defame and discredit what James has been able to accomplish. It has been the lifeblood of his career. Some would argue that Skip perhaps owes his career to James, but it is undeniable that over the years, Skip has made himself look quite foolish when he makes statements regarding LeBron. In 2014, Bayless tweeted, “Johnny Football [Johnny Manziel] will one day be bigger in Cleveland than his buddy LeBron ever was.”
Before leaving ESPN for FS1, Bayless and Steven A. Smith would go at it for hours on end debating the career and accomplishments of LeBron James. Smith would usually be on the side defending James from Bayless and his unchecked opinions on LeBron. Now at his new job, Skip will have a new host to voice his displeasure in James with.
6. Love: Warren Buffett
In 2015, Buffett was ranked as the third wealthiest person in the world. He is an 86-year-old investor and one of LeBron’s best friends and financial advisers. James and Buffett have been friends for over a decade now. The two often go on golfing trips, business events, and even go to sporting events together. Buffett even frequently attends Cavs games.
Throughout their long friendship, the two have often relied on one another for advice in a multitude of areas. Most often, it is James who consults Buffett for financial advice and tips, but Buffett has confessed he is starting to learn from James. It is an incredible friendship the two have, especially considering there is over fifty years separating them. It just goes to show age is nothing but a number.
5. Hate: Pat Riley
The mastermind behind two of the greatest championship runs in history is the same guy who ran many greats out of town. Pat Riley was the coach of the Magic Johnson-led “Showtime” Lakers of the 80s and he was also the President of the Miami Heat during their “Big 3” run.
Riley was able to fit Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, and Chris Bosh onto a roster that still had room for players like Mike Miller, Shane Battier, and Ray Allen. The get-things-done mentality that enabled him to create that Heat team is also what got him into trouble with James. When LeBron felt it was time for him to leave Miami and finish what he had started in Cleveland, Pat was none to pleased. Riley had a little too much pride and ego to let things end smoothly. After James left, Riley accused him of being selfish and being childish. But Riley pushed Dwyane Wade out of town and his controversial approach to the whole Chris Bosh situation reveals that maybe Riley is the childish one.
4. Love: Barack and Michelle Obama
The Obamas have both worked with LeBron James on several occasions on programs to help youth in America and especially in Ohio. James, of course, has always given back to his hometown of Akron, but with the help of Michelle, James has broadened his reach and his ability to improve lives. The two joined forces when they combined Michelle’s “Better Make Room” initiative with James’ “I Promise” movement. James and President Obama have also worked together. Not in the same capacity as James and the First Lady, but Mr. Obama has said that James gave him some pointers to use during his next open gym session.
President Obama respects all James has done with his fame, including his willingness to stand up and speak out about current events. President Obama said LeBron had “done the right thing,” when he wore the famous “I can’t breathe” shirt in pregame warm ups last season. With President Obama about to be finished with his presidential duties, there is little doubt he will spend some of his free time watch his friend LeBron.
3. Hate: Michael Jordan
Perhaps the greatest to ever do it. Michael Jordan has never been too keen on telling folks he thinks LeBron is a great player. Many players of Jordan’s era have spoken out on the subject including Charles Barkley, who believes Jordan will never be surpassed. Jordan’s former teammate Scottie Pippen, however, has commented that LeBron may have the opportunity to catch the ghost of Michael.
Michael, as we know, was incredibly proud and had an ego for the ages. Jordan will never be the one to say if LeBron does pass him. Jordan, however, may be bigger than basketball at this point. His legacy has reached those who don’t play the game. His shoes and other athletic attire have become a status symbol in our society.
2. Love: Every Person in Cleveland
The city of Cleveland was as miserable a sports town as there was in America. The city had not seen a title in 52 years and suffered as many heartbreaks as one city should ever see. When LeBron left the city in 2010, it appeared it had happened again. They were close to a championship and then the carpet was pulled out from under them. That is why, when James came back four years later, they were even more excited than before. It was like they woke up from a bad nightmare.
Now that Cleveland has a title and they will be looking for a back-to-back championship, LeBron is the real king of The Land. There is a ten-story mural of him in the middle of downtown. The city’s economy has gone up and the entire quality of living in Cleveland, Ohio has risen since the return of LeBron James. It is unknown the actual impact James had on the city when he returned, but there is no question his coming back has lifted many, many lives, even if only just a small amount.
1. Hate: Donald Trump
LeBron is easily the most influential player in the NBA and probably the most influential athlete in all of North American sports. That is why, when James publicly came out in support of Hillary Clinton, he immediately made an enemy of Donald Trump.
James has long been somewhat of a political activist, especially among his peers. Recently Trump attempted to dismiss a decade plus old video of his saying some pretty ugly things by calling it locker room talk. James promptly countered Trumps claim saying, “What is locker room talk to me? It’s not what that guy said. We don’t disrespect women in no shape or fashion in our locker rooms. That never comes up.”
James also said. “I’ve got a mother-in-law, my mom, a wife and a daughter and those conversations just don’t go on in our locker room.”
With all the other dramas that surround Donald Trump, I am sure James will do his best to steer clear of much more political talk as the season gets into full swing.