Yes, I am both a Bulls fan and a LeBron fan

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The first sport I can remember being exposed to is basketball.

I didn’t grow up with cable television, so the NBA Finals was pretty much all the basketball I would watch for a good chunk of my childhood. But even then, basketball wasn’t the first sport I got involved with.

Soccer was the first sport I actually played, and I have no clue what brought about the interest in it. I just remember that, one day, I was really interested in the sport, and my mom let me enroll in a soccer summer camp for the park district.

I participated in a soccer summer camp two years in a row before I ditched the sport, and that was all thanks to an increased interest in basketball.

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Around 2003, my brother became more interested in basketball, and he influenced me to do the same. He would buy the all-poster issues of SLAM Magazine, and we would pick and choose certain posters and pin-ups, trying to share them as best as we could.

It was around the same time LeBron James was about to go from high school basketball phenom to the No. 1 pick for his hometown Cavaliers.

LeBron is the first basketball player I was ever truly excited about. Before he entered the league, I knew little about the NBA. The Bulls were my favorite team by default by being born in Chicago and raised in the suburbs, but I didn’t actually know much about them outside of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. I knew about Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal because the Lakers were great back then, but it wasn’t like I was a huge fan of either of them.

That all changed when LeBron came around, though.

I don’t even remember when I first heard of LeBron. I just remember being at Jewel-Osco one time with my family, and my brother showed me a copy of Sports Illustrated Kids with LeBron on the cover. I needed to have it, so I begged my mom to buy it for me despite the fact she had just recently ordered me a subscription for that magazine.

Eventually, I’d have two LeBron jerseys, a replica of LeBron’s Draft cap, a T-shirt with a caricatured LeBron, various posters of him, and a desire for a pair of his signature shoes that wouldn’t be fulfilled until I entered high school. LeBron was easily my favorite. I loved him, and he helped me learn to love the sport of basketball.

A couple of years would go by before he lost the title of my favorite basketball player, and that was inevitable, but it wasn’t because of The Decision and how villainous it made him look.

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During a family gathering at my cousins’ house in Chicago, one of my cousin’s then-boyfriend asked me who was my favorite basketball player. At the time, it was still LeBron, but for some reason I replied, “Kirk Hinrich.”

It wasn’t until a little after that brief conversation that I had answered the questioned incorrectly. Kirk wasn’t my favorite basketball player (yet); he was just my favorite Bull. LeBron was undoubtedly my favorite, and I had absolutely no clue why I had answered that question in such a way.

When I look back at that moment now, I think of how my answer suited my future self, one in which I’d make the transition from being someone whose favorite basketball player is the dominant, versatile superstar LeBron James to one whose favorite basketball player is the gritty, hard-nosed, lesser-known Kirk Hinrich.

Kirk was already my favorite Bull (again, thanks to my brother’s influence); I just never got to watch him play very often. But that changed sometime around 2008. I discovered my family’s DirecTV package didn’t only include The Filipino Channel, ABS-CBN, and other cable channels from the Philippines. I finally had the chance to watch more Bulls games.

Suddenly, my basketball fandom wasn’t restricted to watching the occasional Bulls game on WGN if I was at home for it, the Sunday afternoon spring games on ABC, and the NBA Finals. I could actually watch the Bulls on a regular basis and not just look at the sports section of the Chicago Tribune every morning for Bulls articles, NBA standings, and NBA box scores.

With that, my favoritism for Kirk naturally grew—so much so that, one random day (probably around 2007), I decided Kirk was officially my new favorite basketball player. I finally got to feel like a legitimate Bulls fan, and having a Bull as my favorite basketball player came along with it.

That’s not to say my feelings about LeBron changed, though. I still kept my LeBron jerseys, and the LeBron posters I had remained taped to my bedroom door and walls. My desire to own a pair of LeBrons only grew from there. Nothing really changed—LeBron was just my second favorite basketball player—but then came the 2010 offseason and the most lucrative free agency period in NBA history.

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 July 8, 2010 was supposed to be a day of hope, or, at least, that’s what I wanted it to be. It was the day the Kirk Hinrich’s trade to the Washington Wizards became official, and I still wasn’t over it then, but I had hope that the day could end on a good note, that it would end on a great note thanks to The Decision.

My brother and I watched LeBron announce his future on the TV in his bedroom, and we both thought there was a good chance he’d be coming to the Bulls. Of course, that wasn’t the case.

I don’t remember exactly what my reaction was, but I was obviously upset.

But, of course, I proposed a ridiculous question out of frustration.

As upset as I was, though, I didn’t take it nearly as hard as others did—particularly Cleveland fans who chose to burn their expensive LeBron jerseys. In fact, I was pretty ashamed at their actions. I even decided to proudly wear my LeBron jersey the next day despite my being upset with his choice to “take (his) talents to South Beach.”

Soon enough, I got a LeBron Heat jersey and T-shirt. That’s how much I didn’t care about his departure—he was still a favorite of mine.

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There were still times when I tried to be upset with LeBron—to hate him even—but I just couldn’t do it. Whenever I tried to do so, I just got an unsettling feeling. It felt as if I was lying to myself, trying to be someone I’m not—someone I just couldn’t be. It felt wrong and unfair, so I refused to be that person.

As unpopular as it is to cheer for LeBron, I can’t help but root for him. I can’t help but root for my first favorite basketball player, someone who helped me discover my love for basketball. He’s just a phenomenal player. Granted, he has his flaws (He can definitely whine far too much), but what player doesn’t? There’s no such thing as a perfect player. And I may have felt a bit self-conscious about being a LeBron fan a few years ago, but now, I can honestly say I don’t care what anyone thinks of that.

I think LeBron’s great, I’ll never deny that he’ll always be one of my favorite basketball players, and I don’t see what’s wrong with that.

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