LeBron James is rallying to the defense of battered UFC fighter Ronda Rousey.
Just hours after the former champ’s Las Vegas comeback fight against Amanda Nunes ended in a 48-second knockout for her, the four-time and defending NBA champion reflected on how cruel and heartless the world of sports can sometimes be.
“In sports, in general, they build you up as high as they can, put you on the highest mountain in the world, just to tear you down,” he said. “That’s coming from somebody who has experienced it. And that’s exactly what she’s going through right now. That’s a fact.”
Indeed, the backlash against James was swift and severe when he left his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers to join up with Dywane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami, where they won two titles and appeared in four straight NBA Finals.
“I know exactly how she feels because I was that athlete,” he added. “I went through that.”
James has since left Miami and returned to the Cavs, leading the team in storybook fashion to the city’s first championship in any major sport in over five decades last season.
As for Rousey, no one’s sure what comes next for her.
After blazing to a 12-0 career start, she has now lost her last two matches and looked overwhelmed and unmotivated in doing so.
The 29-year-old former champ released a statement to ESPN on Saturday, insisting she will “need to take some time to reflect and think about the future.”
Rousey went on to thank her many fans for their years of support, including during some of her most difficult moments like those that are now playing out.
“Words cannot convey how much your love and support means to me,” she added.
As she walked from the Octagon late Friday night, following her latest and perhaps most stunning defeat, Rousey said nothing as she seemingly stared into space.
Later, James likened her odyssey to that of his own during at least part of his time in South Beach.
There, the Heat became perceived as the league’s biggest villains, especially James, and many fans openly rejoiced when the upset-driven Dallas Mavericks convincingly knocked them off in the first of their four straight Finals appearances.
Since those trying times, James has bounced back to win three of the last five NBA titles and has largely regained all his vast popularity. Just last season, he mesmerized the entire sports world when he led the Cavs back from a 3-1 Finals deficit against league MVP Steph Curry and the then defending champion and record-setting Golden State Warriors for their aforementioned crown.
Rousey can only hope for such an ultimate victory.
“You don’t know her mindset,” said James. “You don’t know the drive, is the drive still there? You don’t know. But you can tell that it’s built and built and built and built and built, they always make the teardown story more important than how long it took for her to actually get to the mountaintop.”
If nothing else, Rousey appears to have the support of a growing number of big-time athletes that also includes the likes of retired NBA superstar Kobe Bryant.
The L.A. Lakers legend recently took to Twitter to encourage fans to continue to salute Rousey based on all she’s done for the upstart sport in now growing it into a multi-billion empire.
“Instead of clapping for [her] defeat, give her a standing O for putting the sport on the map,” he posted along with the hashtags #pioneer #muse.”
Bryant later challenged the media to be more understanding of the “psychological and physical behavior of athletes.”
[Featured Image by Christian Petersen/Getty Images]