The Most Polarizing Athletes in America
LeBron James is back in the NBA finals after the Miami Heat outlasted the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals. When the clock hit triple zeros and the self-proclaimed “King” walked off the court victorious half of the country was ready to turn their televisions off while the other half was ready to buy Miami championship memorabilia.
This led me to think of the most polarizing figure in sports besides the “King,” and that would be the newest quarterback for the New York Jets, Tim Tebow.
James is criticized for his me-first act that was highlighted with the decision to air his decision to “take his talents to South Beach.” Shining the spotlight on himself has been par for the course for the Akron, Ohio native, and turning on the fans that have showered him with praise since his prep days at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School on national television turned James into the villain.
As Al Pacino’s character, Tony Montana, famously said in Scarface, “Say hello to the bad guy.”
The reputation and image that James had built in his days as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers vanished overnight. No one is questioning his talent, although Kevin Durant may surpass him as the best player in the NBA if his Thunder defeat the Heat in the upcoming NBA finals, but the reason James is as polarizing as he is, is because of his character and demeanor off the court and it started with “The Decision.”
The “polar” opposite can be said for the Heisman winning, scripture quoting, fourth quarter comeback leading, writer of a New York Times book on the list of best-selling, the one and only Tim Tebow.
No in-between exists for these two high profile athletes. You love them or you hate them. Each has their own brand of showmanship and their fans are intense, hardcore, and take any criticism of their beloved personal.
Tebow led the Broncos to a number of fourth quarter comebacks with his unique style of play, and his detractors said it was the Denver defense that was the reason behind the win.
He throws an 80-yard touchdown pass in overtime to defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers, the number one ranked pass defense in the NFL, in the playoffs while throwing for a career high 316 yards. After the game you would be convinced that the Steelers played with seven men on defense and four of them were playing with an arm tied behind their back.
Reality is Tebow caught lightning in a bottle and took advantage of every opportunity he could on the field. His arm talent is in the bottom quarter of active quarterbacks in the league, but what he has in his that had many in his corner is his pristine character, poise, and maturity.
The “polar” opposite is James who has all the talent in the world. He brings a combination of skills that have never been seen in the NBA, and one look at the box score from game six in the Eastern Conference Finals is evidence of that.
However, if he took a page from the book of the guy who wears scripture on his eye black and handles ever press conference with dignity while deflecting praise, then James would be the hero, but right now he is the guy we love to hate.