With the Heat set to square off against the Pacers, the question on the mind of every fan is what, if anything, can manage to topple LeBron and his quest for a second title? As the feats, and really the legend of LeBron James grows ever larger, he has begun to transcend the game itself, much to the dismay of many fans. Consequently, is he, or Commissioner David Stern, the greatest villain currently in the NBA?
LeBron began truly ruffling the feathers of fans when he began his seemingly endless shopping trip of where best to take his talents. While his approach was undeniably abrasive, he has quieted any critics and answered all questions about his ability to perform at the highest level. In fact, he has done so to such a great extent, it is the sheer raw ability of James which not only irks rival fans, but has grown his legend into that of the Boogeyman. LeBron James is the looming figure every team must now overcome to have any hope of winning a ring. But let’s be honest. Of all outspoken and obnoxious figures in sports, James wouldn’t even make the top 10, and even if the irritating or even villainous aspects of his persona were magnified tenfold, every rival fan would donate a kidney to get him to sign with their organization. He has become so good that opposing fans simply have to vilify him.
In the debate between these two, in my mind there is no contest. David Stern is more a villain in the NBA than James could ever be. In the first place, the very job description of any Commissioner is to serve as the lightning rod for all league controversies – the common enemy fans, writers and owners alike can point to as the source of all blame. The longer one holds that post, the more demonized the Commissioner will become. David Stern has acted as NBA Commissioner since 1984, which is at least 20 years more than he needed to be the most evil figure in basketball even had he done everything right.
James also offers a tradeoff, which Stern cannot. Whether you love or hate LeBron, he still provides thrilling moments in the game, clutch shots, huge dunks, and a highlight reel that could run for an hour by the time his career ends. He brings unrivaled excitement and elevates the stakes of every contest. Stern can do no such thing. He is simply the Chief Suit of the NBA.
Worst of all, Stern’s actions of late simply terrify fans. His bungling of the Chris Paul trade, his sanctions against the Spurs, and his decision with the Kings leaves fans afraid his overreaching influence threatens the very integrity of the game they love. LeBron James is a superstar player who annually represents the possibility of ending the season of your favorite team. The series of controversial and erratic acts of Stern leaves fans frightened of the prospect that he may destroy basketball itself. There can be nothing so villainous or haunting as that notion. In a head-to-head comparison of the most reviled figure in the NBA, Stern wins by a landslide.
Christian S. Kohl is a sports contributor for CBS Local Digital Media.