Why Miami's #TeamPetty Movement Is Rooting Hard Against LeBron James

Why Miami's #TeamPetty Movement Is Rooting Hard Against LeBron James
Photo by Alex Broadwell

Maybe you haven't heard, but there are a few Miami Heat fans rooting against LeBron James in the NBA finals. These Miami Heat fans laugh in the face of LeBron's failure in Cleveland. They fist-pump every Warriors basket. They retweet every funny sad-LeBron meme. They bask in his frustration and possible regret. 

These fans are so serious about their message that they've developed a social media support group called #TeamPetty. Search this hashtag, and you'll find they've owned their hate. They've openly admitted their intentions. They've asked that you respect their privacy as they drink the haterade and let the refreshing pettiness wash over them. All they ask is that you let them be as they indulge in the chocolatey goodness that has been Golden State dismantling the Cavaliers. 

You may not like what #TeamPetty stands for, but their reasoning is valid and clear. In their opinion, LeBron James brought this movement upon himself. He did so in a variety of ways. 

1. Heat fans get no credit for handling LeBron's departure with class. 

Cavs fans will have you believe Heat fans are disgusting, ungrateful, despicable people, yet when LeBron left in 2010, Cleveland acted like a crazed and inconsolable WWE fan after his favorite wrestler had just lost the belt at Wrestlemania. For some reason, Heat fans have the rep as bad fans, yet it's Cavs fans who behave like savages. Most everything #TeamPetty is about has a humorous tone to it. In Cleveland, they made it personal. 

Here is just a snippet from an enlightening article New Times published in 2010 following James' departure from the Cavs:

One of the first Clevelanders to torch a LeBron James jersey July 8 — the night LeBron stammered to the world he was taking his talents to South Beach — was an unnamed luminary at a Mahoning Valley Scrappers minor-league game. The pyro-innovator "avoided arrest," a newspaper noted the next day, probably because the Scrappers liked the idea. They announced a promotional night featuring a "LeBronfire." Fans bringing his jersey to be torched would receive a free ticket. The Double-A Akron Aeros ran a similar promotion, shipping off their jerseys with missionaries to be distributed in far-flung places.

A Cleveland bar, Bier Markt, offered free brew to patrons who brought in LeBron jerseys the night following his "Decision." Bartenders were armed with garden shears. "Enjoy that beer while we shred that jersey in front of you," bar owner Sam McNulty, who says he was drunk when he came up with the idea, remembers telling customers. One hundred two jerseys met their demise. "We gave away a lot of beer that day."

Here is a video of LeBron's first game back in Cleveland as a member of the Miami Heat, and here is a video of his first game back in Miami as a member of the Cavaliers. Any sane person would compare the two events and tell you LeBron's return to Cleveland was a borderline riot, while his first game back in Miami was a mixture of lighthearted boos and standing applause.

2. LeBron sabotaged the Heat's offseason when he left, leaving us with McBob.

LeBron leaving was a one-offseason deal, but the way he left still affects the team. As the story goes, Pat Riley, in his attempt to keep LBJ happy, asked him which free agents he liked. The Heat was desperate. The team had a finite amount of time and money to reload the roster. LeBron didn't care. He was too busy planning his major public relations score. 

The Heat had limited options, so if LeBron planned to stay, he needed to communicate with Riley. If LeBron planned to leave, that information would have helped too. But LeBron never answered, so Riley was left to do things like signing Josh McRoberts to a four-year deal worth an estimated $23 million — the full midlevel exception. That's a move that, whether the Heat admits it or not, has turned out to be a huge mistake. 

This might not be LeBron's fault, but #TeamPetty blames him for it. He could have stopped this, and he didn't. He could have given Pat Riley the common courtesy of knowing he wasn't sure. LeBron had a moral obligation to text back "Don't do that because of me," but he sat back and watched Micky Arison's money burn. Not only that, but there are also rumors that the Heat had Paul Gasol in the bag but that LeBron wouldn't commit one way or another (even though he knew he wasn't coming back), so Gasol signed with the Bulls.

The Heat also blew a first-round draft pick on Shabazz Napier because the team knew LeBron liked him. Napier is a terrible basketball player. It turns out he was LeBron's first move of many terrible general manager moves. 

LeBron owed the Heat nothing the offseason he left, but after everything the Heat brought into his life, he could have had the decency to reply to Pat Riley's texts. Not even a pondering-face emoji, LBJ? 

3. Heat fans reject the idea that LeBron brought Miami two championships.

There seems to be this narrative that Heat fans should be thankful that LeBron gave them his prime years and won two titles for them, but that's insulting to everyone else who played in that era. Are we thankful that LeBron was a part of something special here? Of course. Could it have happened without him? Probably not. Who knows what Miami would have done with the money they spent on LeBron, but that's a pretty important domino to fall.

Without LeBron, there probably isn't a Shane Battier or Ray Allen. Heat fans take issue with this line of thinking, however, because LeBron needed the Heat more than the Heat needed him. That's a fact. It was a marriage of convenience, and both sides profited. LeBron refers to Miami as his college. Plenty of great students go to Harvard, and rarely does Harvard need to thank them for doing so. Now that LeBron is gone and on an opposing team, it's only natural that we root against him. That's sports. 

As you see in Cleveland time and time again, it's not as easy as signing LeBron James and winning a title. There is a reason he obsesses over duplicating what he had here in Miami. 

4. LeBron tarnished Heat fans' reputation forever.

For some odd reason, ever since LeBron came to the Heat, the team's fans have a reputation for being frontrunners. While more Heat fans did emerge during the Big Three era, few have left since LeBron was subtracted.  What's even odder is that every piece of evidence suggests that Heat fans are awesome and that Cavs fans are the ones tripping over themselves to support a winner:

Cavaliers attendance with LeBron James:

  • 2006-07: 20,436 (3rd in the NBA)
  • 2007-08: 20,465 (3rd in the NBA)
  • 2008-09: 20,010 (5th in the NBA)
  • 2009-10: 20,562 (2nd in the NBA)
  • 2014-15: 20,562 (2nd in the NBA)
  • 2015-16: 20,562 (2nd in the NBA)

Cavaliers attendance without LeBron James:

  • 2010-11: 20,112 (3rd in the NBA)
  • 2011-12: 15,926 (19th in the NBA)
  • 2012-13: 16,192 (22nd in the NBA)
  • 2013-14: 17,329 (16th in the NBA)

Since LeBron left Miami, the Heat gas drawn 19,712 fans a game in 2015 (fifth in the NBA) and 19,740 (sixth in the NBA) this season. Those are definite, non-bandwagon numbers. The Heat has been near the top of the NBA in attendance nearly every season since the team drafted Dwyane Wade. Forbes has even voted Heat fans the most loyal in the NBA, yet we still hear everyone's shit. We're sick of it! We hope you fail! We aren't sorry. 

5. LeBron never thanked Miami Heat fans. Yes, we are serious. 

Maybe you missed the name of this group, so let me remind you: It's #TeamPetty. Yes, Heat fans felt slighted that LeBron never thanked them, but that's always been an 80-percent-joking, 20-percent-serious beef. Still, how hard is this to do? You know when you hold a door for someone and they don't say thank you? You're like, "Yo, fuck you then! Next time open your own door, dick." This is like that.

Lesser men have left South Florida and thanked the fans. Brian Hartline thanked Dolphins fans when he left, and nobody even liked him! At all! A simple tweet would have done the job. It's not even about the thank-you anymore; it's the fact that it was so hard for LeBron to do this. Don't worry, LeBron, you can say hi to us when Cleveland fans aren't looking. We could have met in a park after work or something. But you made it weird. 


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