LeBron James, Game 5 vs. Boston on June 5. (Getty Images)
In LeBron James' quest for redemption, he could miss out on a major opportunity.
He told ESPN in December that he was through being the villain whom so many people (read: fans on sports radio and in the Twittersphere) think he is.
It's too bad, because he could be the greatest uber-nemesis the NBA has ever known. Not the Pistons-of-the-'80s, commit-felony-assault-on-the-court-and-act-like-crybabies kind of bad guy; I'm thinking more in the WWE, he's-playing-to-the-crowd-and-deep-down-we-know-he's-misunderstood sense.
James already possesses several qualities of a compelling antagonist:
James wasn't always a "heel." He was once an underdog, having been tasked to single-handedly lift a bereft Cleveland squad from the depths of NBA misery. It's enough to make even the strongest man crack, so it's hard to fault him for taking the "easy way out" in opting to play with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
What says "Darth Vader chic" better than the Heat's black uniforms? All he needs is a sweet cape. Off the court James is going for the Clark Kent look with the thick-rimmed, non-prescription glasses he wears at news conferences, but they can't hide the brooding hoops genius behind those frames.
As with any story worth following, suspense is created when the bad guy temporarily seizes the upper hand. The further James takes his teams in the playoffs, the more relieved the "good guys" are when the scourge is finally vanquished. Would the average NBA fan embrace a Celtics-Pacers matchup this readily? I think not.
Like any memorable villain, James' greatness means he'll rise up each spring and steal the spotlight for as long as he can. Every. Single. Year.
firstname.lastname@example.org | @redeyesportschi