Don't do it, Oklahoma City. When everything in your head and your heart tells you to cut loose, don't. When the urge is there to make the Oklahoma City Arena sound like a state school board meeting, don't.
Don't boo LeBron.
I know this is asking a lot. Really. I understand the urge to let the guy have it.
But when LeBron James comes to town today for the first time since leaving Cleveland for Miami, fight that temptation to boo him like a bad warm-up act. This isn't some sort of plea for civility. This isn't a call for good sportsmanship.
This could help your team win.
The truth is, Thunder fans, LeBron wants your boos.
He has taken to his new role of NBA villain. Even though he didn't seem so thrilled by it this past summer — why anyone would dislike him for kicking more sand in Cleveland's eye than they even have on South Beach? — LeBron is playing to type now.
Look at what James did earlier this month during an overtime win in Portland. Trail Blazer fans were on him all night, but as their boos escalated late in the game, so did LeBron's game. He fed off the vibe. He flourished in the moment.
When he stuck a three-pointer that sealed the victory in overtime, he pulled a DeSean Jackson and cruised the opposite end of the court. He raised his arms. He baited the crowd. He flashed that smile.
LeBron finished with a season-high 44 points that night.
That wasn't the only time he played some of his best ball on the road. He had 31 points opening night in Boston, 38 points in his return to Cleveland and 33 points in Utah where the fans are convinced everyone is against their Jazz.
LeBron is playing some of his best ball in the most hostile environments.
“It continues to fuel me,” he told reporters recently of the vitriol, “and I just try to go out there and do what needs to be done for our team to win.”
Why give him that fuel, Oklahoma City?
Why provide his team that boost?
The Heat, after all, feels just as much at home on the road as it does in Miami. This team's 17-5 home record is only slightly better than its 15-8 road mark, and that ability to win on the road is a reflection of James.
He doesn't just accept the hostility. He enjoys it.
That attitude rubs off on the rest of the team.
Thing is, for as much as LeBron relishes the rage when he's on the court, I'm not sure he likes it all that much when he's off it. Being booed during games? Seeing nasty signs in the crowd? He can answer that criticism with his play. But when he was criticized for that karma tweet a few weeks back, he showed that he has yet to come to terms with every part of being the villain.
You remember the circumstances — the Lakers nearly doubled up the Cavs, and shortly after, LeBron posted a message on Twitter.
“Crazy. Karma is a b****. Gets you ever time. It's not good to wish bad on anybody. God sees everything!”
James was pretty clearly taking a jab at Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, who was less than gracious when LeBron decided to leave Cleveland. But when he was asked about the tweet, James backpedaled faster than Troy Polamalu.
“It's just how I was feeling at the time,” he told reporters then. “It wasn't even a comment from me; it was someone who sent it to me and I sent it out.”
There's still a part of LeBron that wants to be liked by everyone. Being the nice guy worked pretty well, after all, when he was in Cleveland. It won hearts. It scored endorsements.
But it didn't bring him a championship.
So, LeBron is doing something different. He is playing the villain. He is embracing this role.
That's why he will welcome the hooting and hollering, the hissing and heckling today inside the ThunderDome. That's why he will feed off any negativity that comes his way.
That's why you have to resist the urge, Thunder fans.
Don't boo LeBron.