*ESPN’s monthly telephone survey asking respondents to name their favorite NBA player just confirms that LeBron James’ popularity has taken a hit.
From April 2010 to last month, 50 percent fewer respondents said James was their favorite NBA player, from a high of 9 percent in the month before his former Cavaliers were ousted by the Celtics in Game 6 of the playoffs’ second round.
The poll result fell to 4.5 percent as the Heat wrapped up a 58-24 regular season and blew through the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round this year.
“We have about a month left of the hate,” James said Thursday night after the Heat ousted the Chicago Bulls in Game 5 the Eastern Conference finals. “We’ll see what happens next year.”
The data are taken from a 10-year-old phone survey of sports fans done each month by ESPN Sports Poll. Interviews in 2010 were conducted with 8,003 respondents; in 2011, 6,007 were conducted.
Respondents who said James was their favorite overall athlete dropped from 3.6 percent to 1.8 percent. In August 2010, during the month after the two-time MVP announced his decision to sign with the Heat in a TV special aired by ESPN, that number fell from 3 percent to 1.6 percent, bottoming out a month later at 1.3 percent.
At least James has a fan in Scottie Pippen. The Hall of Famer believes James might supplant Pippen’s former Bulls running mate Michael Jordan as the greatest player ever.
“Michael Jordan is probably the greatest scorer to play the game,” Pippen said today on “Mike & Mike In The Morning” on ESPN Radio. “But I may go as far as to say LeBron James may be the greatest player to ever play the game because he is so potent offensively that not only can he score at will but he keeps everybody involved.
“You have to be on your P’s and Q’s on defense. No guy on the basketball court is a threat to score with LeBron James out there. Not only will LeBron dominate from the offensive end as well, but he’s also doing it on the defensive end, which really makes him the complete package. He’s able to get in those passing lanes, shoot those gaps and create transition opportunities where he is pretty much unstoppable.”