Quickly I'll weigh in on this LeBron "will he be hated or loved debate", since I've already talked so much about him. Just a few points:
The Kobe thing -- no one is saying what Kobe did was the worst thing ever, what's pertinent in this comparison was the PUBLIC PERCEPTION OF HIM AT THE TIME, whether or not that perception was fair. And, let's be honest, he was straight-up toxic after that alleged rape. Advertising companies dumped him en masse, the NBA stopped promoting him for a while, but he eventually rebounded because...
...in the end, I truly believe 99.99% of sports fans just want to see greatness. At least NBA fans. People by and large watch the sport to see the great players, the highlight plays, the huge moments of excitement. I think IF LEBRON EXCELS, The Decision will be largely forgotten in time (outside of Cleveland).
Ironically, from a historic standpoint, I think he'd actually be better off if the Heat were nondescript for a few years and out of the news (like Kobe's mid-00s Lakers teams), because it's easier to forget if you are out of the limelight for a while. So if he just continues being one of the top-3 most-talked-about players, maybe the hate will never subside, and IMO that's the only way he remains so villified.