In 2010 LeBron James left Cleveland, the city he called home for the first 7 years of his NBA career, in favor of joining the Miami Heat.
"It basically turned me into somebody I wasn't. When you start to hear 'the villain,' now you have to be the villain. And I started to buy into it. I started to play the game of basketball at a level or in a mind state that I had never played at before. I mean angry. That's mentally, and that's not the way I play the game of basketball."
His longtime fans tore into him for deserting the Cleveland Cavaliers and, for the first time, LeBron became basketball's bad guy, saying:
"During my first seven years in the NBA I was always the liked one. To be on the other side, they call it the dark side, or the villain, whatever they call it . . . It was definitely challenging for myself. It was a situation I had never been in before. I took a long time to adjust to it. It didn't feel good. I was still living in Ohio and you could feel it. You don't even have to hear it. You can feel it."
That must have been tough to deal with. So tough, in fact, that if he could, LeBron might do things a little differently with his fans in mind, continuing:
"If I could look back on it I would probably change a lot of it. The fact of having a whole TV special, and people getting the opportunity to watch me make a decision on where I wanted to play, I probably would change that. Because I can now look and see if the shoe was on the other foot and I was a fan, and I was very passionate about one player, and he decided to leave, I would be upset too about the way he handled it."
We're glad you see the light, LeBron. At the same time, you had an opportunity and took it, so don't be too hard on yourself.
Celebs should always be mindful of the fan base that keeps their career afloat, but at the end of the day, they are people too and have to do what is best for themselves.
[Image via WENN.]