The rags-to-riches story of Jeremy Lin, without a doubt the most trend-setting, stereotype-hurdling athlete since Tiger Woods, could not be further from that of fellow NBA player, superstar LeBron James.

While Lin came out of a college – Harvard – that has given the country more Presidents than professional basketball players, James was touted as “The Chosen One” while still a sophomore in high school. While Lin was recruited by Harvard not for his basketball skill, but for his stellar G.P.A., LeBron was twice named the league’s  most valuable player and led the Cleveland Cavaliers to the 2007 Finals.

In July 2010, when the Golden State Warriors signed Lin on as a third-string point guard, LeBron was making perhaps the most regrettable “Decision” of his life: putting together an arrogance-filled press junket and making an hour-long feature program out of where he would decide to take his talents to now that he was a free agent.

It was here that the hate began to mount for the man that had more frequently than now been called The King.

Joining the glamour and glitz of South Beach’s Miami Heat – part of a wild trade that brought Toronto Raptors’ big man Chris Bosh down with him – espoused the most ridiculous and absurd vitriol from the American sports landscape.  Words like “traitor” and “coward” followed him, and it was soon discovered that while Ohio is just one of 50 states in our union, the described betrayal of his home state and his hometown of Akron affected all sports-conscious Americans deeply.

Nevermind that in what would be LeBron’s last home game as a Cavalier – a horrific 120-88 loss to the Boston Celtics in Game 5 of the 2010 Eastern Conference semifinals – he walked through the exits amidst a deafening cacophony of boos from his so-called hometown fans.

Ridiculous ‘Decision”-making aside, we’re talking about a professional basketball player reaching an end of his contract with a team he made famous, and deciding to follow his personal dreams of success by signing on with a more talented and more organized team – something countless men have done in the NBA’s tenured history.

Sure, the fallout in Cleveland was bound to be bad.  And the national backlash against his manner of moving on was probably warranted.  But in time, surely the mature fan would forgive his lapse in thought and think of their own franchises’ needs.

Maturity?  In sports?

If anything, the haters have exponentially multiplied, to the point where at any city’s arena, at any given away game, LeBron will most definitely be victim to a chorus of boos and hisses every time he touches the ball.

And while there is a generous amount of hatred- perhaps fueled by jealousy? – towards the Miami franchise as a whole, none of it would be present if LeBron wasn’t there.  The legions nationwide that waxed elated as the Dallas Mavericks got  the better of Miami in last year’s finals were not cheering because Dallas got payback from their loss to the same team in the 2006 Finals, but simply because for the second time in his postseason career LeBron did not go away holding the Larry O’Brien trophy.

For more than half of professional basketball fans, it has become personal.  The Hate LeBron bandwagon, fueled by false luminaries on the ESPN pundit scene that attract fickle, ignorant fans to half-witted sarcasm like flies to excrement, will be roaring down American sports bars, campuses, gymnasiums and right in front of your own television for years to come.

Hell, YouTube nobodies have even taken to poking fun at the man’s receding hairline.

Not for Jeremy Lin, the media darling of his time, and, perhaps, rightly so.  Claimed off waivers Dec. 27 of last year by the New York Knicks, Lin was a self-described “12th or 15th guy on the roster”, behind Toney Douglas and recent signee guards Mike Bibby and Baron Davis.  On January 17 he was dropped to the D-League, only to get his chance due to Davis’ inability to make his long-awaited debut.

Coach Mike D’Antoni, given the option to sign somebody else by waiving Lin, decided instead to start the Harvard man.

The rest – a record-breaking 136 points in his first five career starts, as well as becoming a media frenzy while sleeping on the couch in his brother’s NYC apartment – is history.

Meanwhile, LBJ and his much-maligned team have been loudly torching opponents en route to making the 2011-2012 season Miami’s best start ever, a 24-7 record that places them a half-game ahead of Chicago to lead the entire league.

Mark it 15 wins out of the last 18 games and currently on a six-in-a-row run, winning by double digits in every one of the six.  LeBron has shifted into the MVP race’s number one candidate, averaging near triple-double numbers on the season with 28.8 points, 8.8 rebounds and 6.8 assists per game.

And, true to form, the Sportscenter-watching faithful continue to remember LeBron and say “What an asshole, how could he do that to his home, to the fans that loved him” all the while forgetting to add “But if he played for my team I wouldn’t give a shit.”

Clearly there has been much lost in the bright haze of Linsanity Nation, and when the fog dissipates and we start talking playoffs, the Knicks and the Heat might indeed get Lintimate.

But after all is said and done, the summary to this season looks to start at “LeBron” and end in “James” as the Heat, and the 6’8″, 250-lb titan specifically, are scorching everything in their path.

Sports fans love to hate almost as much as they love to, well, love.  And while LeBron and Lin, on opposite sides of the spectrum, will continue to lead their teams to victory and dominate stats, there is really no true comparison just yet.

Lin will no doubt be re-signed immediately following this season’s events, with a multi-year contract guaranteeing copious salary.  But if, in the years to come, something should happen and he exercises his right and decides to go somewhere else, I can’t help but wonder what the backlash would be like.

Cleveland? Akron? Try a New Yorker’s bitter fury.

Even Jeremy might be Lincapable of stopping the boos.