NEW YORK — Have you ever seen a city turn so fast on its Messiah?
Granted, America’s favorite pastime is building up its heroes to obscene proportions and then tearing them down.
But have you ever seen sports fanatics and columnists summarily back flip so savagely on a sports divinity for prematurely ending a season fraught with majestic expectations with three straight losses and not “suitably” squirm or shrivel when interrogated by the outraged or “appropriately” accept full responsibility?
Remember what John Wooden said to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Lew Alcindor) when he beat himself up after a rare UCLA defeat?
“If you want to blame yourself for every loss, then you’ve got to take credit for every win.”
Denounce LeBron James all you want for being consumed with conceit . . . as if all the greats aren’t ego-tripping in their fields and don’t reek of narcissism.
Who knows, maybe he’s as arrogant, condescending and scheming behind the screens — as well as sidetracked by outside interests — as at least one dot.com grenade launcher claims.
I would have an easier time respecting the courage of such convictions had they been hurled when LeBron was up rather than laying in the weeds until he was down. I suspect James’ hanging in boardrooms instead of “staying” in his place . . . outside his agent’s office . . . makes people uncomfortable.
We tend to be less tolerant of icons whose goals far exceed perfecting a wicked jump shot than those whose off-hour existence is spent gambling and chasing women.
Seems many in the media want LeBron’s blood because he dares to rise above that (as far as I know) and boasts a business acumen . . . and hobnobs with Warren Buffett and Jay-Z . . . and has a master plan instead of just waking up and going to work out and party afterward.
But later for all that. The point is, I can’t recall a time when LeBron didn’t deflect the floodlights onto his teammates.
Paul Simon sure knew what he was singing about when he composed, “Every generation knocks a hero off the pop charts.”
Or attempts to, at least. Still, what are we to make of such an abrupt about in-LeBron’s-face?
Wilt Chamberlain inarguably was the most criticized player in NBA history . . . and yet got less condemnation throughout his career than LeBron did in the days immediately preceding and following the Cavaliers’ crumple to the Celtics.
Despite the after-the-fact incontrovertible certainty Boston boasts the next best four players now that it’s whole, healthy and peaking — especially on defense — the vocal majority, shrugging off LeBron’s ailing elbow, is all over him like a blanket indictment.
The remaining people think the stained glass free agent-in-waiting is ideal for their house of worship.
Again, only this time with more feeling, I’ve never seen someone go from deified to vilified so fast . . . and not just by the national gnomes, but from his homeys as well.
I cannot recollect a fan base turning on its star, let alone a pin-up pet, who had yet to desert or commit a grievous indiscretion.
Seattle Mariners fans turned on Alex Rodriguez, but that was after he left to sign a $252 million contract. The Steelers have one of the NFL’s most rabid fan bases, but are starting to turn on Ben Roethlisberger now that they know he’s a lowlife who trolls for drunk college girls in dive bar bathrooms.
Even O.J. Simpson received a bigger benefit of the doubt from a jury of his peers.
Hey, if underachieving is a crime, I would have been sent to the chair decades ago.
Again, last I checked, LeBron was 25 and already had carried his team once (his fourth year in the league) to the Finals.
Michael Jordan didn’t plead his case on the Supreme Court or win a title until he was 28 . . . with Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant and Bill Cartwright by his side and trusty shooters on the outskirts.
Neither Kobe nor Shaq ever won a title unless aided by one another, or abetted by Dwyane Wade or Pau Gasol. Oscar Robertson never won until he joined Kareem in Milwaukee. Magic never won without Kareem, either.
Going back to the 1980s, the lone franchise players ever to capture a championship without another Top 50 player were Isiah Thomas (twice) and Hakeem Olajuwon (once) . . . and Tim Duncan (three times), but he had All-World Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker.
Meanwhile, columnists and Cavaliers fans are enraged James isn’t as apologetic as they’re apoplectic. He’s been knocked so far off his pedestal, it’s like he let us all down.
Peter Vecsey covers the NBAfor the New York Post.