The 2010-2011 NBA season will always be remembered as the one in which LeBron James turned Darth Vader, abandoning his chilly Cleveland confines in favor of Miami’s bikini bods, sunshine and a bromance with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. It was a move that earned the 26-year-old forward a new generation of enemies. Still, only one man can claim to have been a full-time LeBron James hater before “The Decision” went down.
ESPN First Take‘s Skip Bayless regularly voices his thinly veiled hatred of the “King.” The anchor once called Lebron a “Prince” who “lacks the MJ clutch gene,” and regularly chugs from the LeBron Hatorade bottle regardless of how the Heat starter performs on any given night.
That was before a new version of 26-year-old James surfaced in the 2011 NBA playoffs. A version in which, during a series against the Boston Celtics, James netted huge shots under duress, including a set of dagger-like three pointers that sent Boston packing. But Bayless still wasn’t impressed.
And so the James hate continued into Game 2 of the Playoffs as the Heat went toe-to-toe in a pivotal game with the Chicago Bulls. Failure here would’ve come with a big helping of criticism, leaving fans to ponder whether the Big 3 experiment had failed in its first year.
But then the new James showed up again.
With the game in the balance, The King took the ball and shoved it down the Bulls’ collective throat to the tune of nine points in the final 4:27–including a crushing three-pointer that put the Heat up for good–and ripped the heart out of the Bulls, “Mortal Kombat” Kano-style.
Yet again, James appeared to have eaten his Wheaties and nailed his Michael Jordan impression. He was a heartless, cold and calculated killer staring down the camera and quite possibly into Skip Bayless’ soul. Bayless could feel it too, and briefly conceded that he may not be able to call James “Prince” for much longer.