This is a little feature we like to call “Is Wrestling _____?”, where we attempt to make a connection between professional wrestling and something from the world outside of Kayfabe. Today, we’ll look at LeBron James, the best pure heel in professional sports.
Four years ago, on July 8, 2010, Shawn Michaels kicked Marty Jannetty through the Barbershop window all over again. From a largely-staged platform that combined the garish creativity of the WWF with the slick self-satisfaction of ESPN, LeBron James made his infamous “Decision,” instantly becoming the biggest heel in the NBA.
The aftermath of The Decision saw the assembly of basketball’s Four Horsemen: The 2010 – 2014 Miami Heat. LeBron, the Ric Flair of the group, was surrounded by consummate team players whose only real jobs were to protect, compliment, and win with him. LeBron had his smart, stylish, capable second in Dwayne Wade, a loyal big man in Chris Bosh, and a supporting cast of the best free agent role players available. Everybody begrudgingly respected them as athletes and professionals, but people bought tickets because they wanted to see the Miami Heat get knocked on their asses.
Some nights, like all good heel acts, the Heat did get knocked around just enough that the fans believed that they were beatable. For the most part, though, the Heat dominated, winning four Eastern Conference Titles and two NBA Championships. They became the definitive act of their time.
Now, in spite of all their success, The Big Three (they even have a name!) have all opted out of their contracts with the Heat. This could truly be the end of an era, or it could just be the ultimate heel calculation: a false breakup only to reunite stronger (and more cap flexible) than ever. Regardless of the outcome, the mass opt-out of June ’14 will change the top of the card in the NBA:
Will LeBron return as Cleveland’s white meat hometown babyface? Will Wade turn his back on those who’ve been with him his entire career and join another team? Will the Heat sign Paul Roma?
The answers to all these questions will probably disappoint most of us on some level, but as with wrestling, at least we can believe in our fantasy booking for a while.