Say hello to the bad guy and other movie villain clichés

“You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”

That was the famous quote from “The Dark Knight” when the film made its one last philosophical push to wrap things up. It’s the idea that you will be loved if you die early so nobody can get tired of you always being around – throwing your talents in everybody’s face.

Basically, you’re better off being Kurt Cobain than LeBron James.

Except that quote is sort of a load of guano.

You know who tried to die a hero? Kevin Garnett. You know who got vilified anyway? Kevin Garnett.

Now, LeBron is embracing his villainous stature like he gets nourishment from eating babies, stomping on puppies and masturbating to I Hate Orphans Quarterly. We see the change right before our very eyes. It didn’t start with The Decision or whatever the hell he was doing during the 2010 playoffs against the Celtics. It began the night he went to Cleveland and tried to put out the inferno by using Chevron With Techron.

THAT was the moment in which we saw LeBron James decide to be the villain we’re seeing evolve in front of us on a nightly basis. I honestly believe he didn’t know what was going to happen the night he returned to Cleveland. I don’t think he knew he was going to destroy them until he stepped onto the court. Going back to the proverbial scene of the crime (I guess technically the Boys and Girls Club in Connecticut is the scene but you know what I mean here) had to have been intimidating on many levels.

What if someone took things too seriously and tried to do him bodily harm? Stick and stones may break my bones but I’m going to drop jumpers on you until you feel bad for burning my jersey. Once he stepped to the court and did his chalk toss in front of angry fans and an unimpressed Wally Szczerbiak, it was back to the normal routine. It brought out the killer in him.

Since then, LeBron has a more devious look in his eyes when he and the Heat are steamrolling teams. Wade feeds off of it a bit and Joel Anthony would too if he could catch it. But the growing malevolence emanating from him reminds me of the Evil from “The Fifth Element.” The more you attacked it; the stronger it got. And that’s been LeBron since he tore down the Q in Cleveland.

He’s enjoying the blowouts a bit more and there’s a mischievous aura around him while he’s doing it. Look at the way he won the game in Portland the other night:

For all ostensive purposes James’ bucket sealed Miami’s come-from-behind, 107-100 victory. Nonetheless, Blazer coach Nate McMillan called timeout.

But instead of following his team to the huddle, James walked to the other side of the court, his arms in the air beckoning and chiding the Portland fans who booed him on every touch since introductions. “You want to boo me?” James’ gestures seemed to say. “Well go right ahead and kiss my ass.”

In the postgame comments, he says, “I’ve kind of accepted this little villain role everyone has placed on me, and I’m okay with it.”

For once, the preening seems to be headed somewhere. It’s not him acting as we all accused him of doing for years. I always thought he was an entertainer first, and this so-called killer second. He wanted to make a gorillion dollars more than he wanted to win, or at least that’s what I assumed. But now, it appears as if he’s happy with where he is in society’s view and looking to be the bad guy. If the boos truly fuel him, then we’re headed for a transcendent era of basketball.

Nobody is more hated than LeBron James right now. People seem to have forgotten their contempt for Kobe and couldn’t care less if Mike Vick went all “Shocker” on a room full of Corgis. LeBron James broke up with his girlfriend on national television for the hot girl with implants and is now flaunting her in front of every camera that broadcasts back home.

I sort of love the fact that he slammed the Cavs during their darkest hour on Tuesday night.

Why shouldn’t he? Why should the villain be the mature one here? When did you ever see The Joker, Hans Gruber or the Jonas Brothers be the bigger person in a situation? Villains disturb people and they laugh at the misfortune of others. They enjoy the pain of others because that’s just some villainous type of shit to do.

LeBron didn’t live long enough to see himself become the villain. He just flat-out decided to do it. He embodied it like Heath Ledger’s version of the evil clown gone madder.

I wouldn’t be shocked if the Miami Heat’s way of bringing in veterans to round out the roster this summer was LeBron bringing them into a room, snapping a cue stick in half and telling them it was their audition for the team with just one spot to fill. I want to see this from LeBron.

Somewhere along the line, sports became so personal and everyone forgot it was just entertainment. It was an escape into a competitive world that quenched our ancestral thirst for gladiator blood. I want the best player in the world to turn heel and give us a sideshow of epic proportions.

Thank you, LeBron, for becoming this character. Whether it will end up working in your favor or not is beside the point. I don’t really care if you win. I’m just happy you’re doing it.

Forget being the hero. Look into your next victim’s eyes and ask them, “Why so serious?”

It makes for a better story.

UPDATE: LeBron has backtracked on this tweet:

@TheAkronHammer: LeBron on “The Tweet”: “It was someone who sent it to me and I sent it out.”

Way to make yourself look like a wuss again, LeBron. I guess you’re still about image over being a “killer.”

Seth Carstens