Tuesday, August 4, 2009

He Ain't That Nice

In case you don't know, I quite enjoy taking random pot shots at LeBron James. The sports world's most beloved child is quite the grating figure for me. Just so y'all could say I actually have a reason, I'll explain.

I'm one of the people on the planet who isn't an advocate of giving people free passes. Like, if you are a person who wants respect, adulation, and to be the face of a generation, I feel like you maybe should do something to earn those things. But that's just me. That's never been the case in the relationship between LeBron James and the majority of the general public. It hasn't. Ever since the day in high school that he put up triple double numbers, he's had a bazillion dollar Nike contract in the wings and an entire line of merchandise and nicknames and awards set aside for him. All this long before the day his NBA career even began. And it pisses me off.

Now this isn't a jealousy type thing like you might accuse it of being on a preteen internet message board. This is something about realism in a world that wants to avoid it. This is something about the eyes of accountability in which society nervously never makes contact with. This is something about big metaphors that make things seem much more serious and important in the grand scheme of things than they actually are ...

A random quandary I have is why do stats only matter when you like the guy putting them up? Cuz as far as I remember, when Kobe was out there putting up a season scoring at a clip of 35.4 points per game he was labeled as selfish. But when LeBron puts up big scoring numbers then it's somehow relevant. Like how LeBron gunned for 35.3 over 14 games this postseason and somehow he's this heavenly hero, even though he was a lucky 3-point jumper away from getting swept out of the Eastern Conference finals. And then people want to put asterisks on hard stats to sway them a certain way, like to try and make LeBron's Madison Square Garden performance this season stand out as superior to Bryant's before him. But straight from a points-on-the board aspect, #23 can't even touch #24's low top signature shoes. Kobe's got single game point notches of 81 (coming back from an 18-point deficit for a win), 65 (including the shot to send the game into overtime in a winning effort), 62 (while only playing 3 quarters and outscoring the opposing team in that time), 61 (in the aforementioned MSG win), and 60 (in a regulation win). That's 5 games of 60 or more, all in winning efforts, while the rest of the current players in the entire league have 2 between them. And LeBron James isn't one of them. If that doesn't describe a near-unattainable plateau that separates the greatest scorer period from other great scorers, then I don't know what is.

But then we're to be told that triple doubles alone outweigh epic scoring nights in winning efforts. But in that vain, why don't you compare the team role according to different positions on the floor and the individual offensive attacks that the two dynamic players run in accordance with their coaches philosophies? But no one wants to compare that. It's no fun, because then you'd unbelievably find that somehow LeBron James might just have the ball in his hands a far greater percentage of the time than Kobe Bryant, the oft-labeled selfish ball hog. It's something that no one wants to concede. LeBron, a ball dominator? Noooo. Everyone wants to spew out assist numbers to claim concrete selfishness versus team-oriented play. But when LeBron has the ball in his hands literally every time down the floor and he's asked to create an offense out of utter stagnancy, then that's what he will do and he will put up concurrent numbers accordingly. And in turn, when Kobe is asked to assume his position in the triangle offense as mainly an attacking wing scorer who will get the ball later in the shot clock in a prime scoring opportunity, then that's what he'll do and he will put up concurrent numbers accordingly. I prolly should delve further into specific intricacies, tendencies, and exceptions in each players' team offense, but that's just more into the inexplicable variations of the game that are skewed and thrown to the side in favor of "intangibles", which every so-called expert just wants you to blindly accept as being in LeBron's favor. Whether it's true or not.

One aspect of it that kills me is the notion of "making your teammates better". Which we're also led to believe is something LBJ does and KB doesn't. Case closed, right? But then how come everyone also says that LeBron has never had any teammates to work with? I don't understand. If he makes them better ... then why do they still suck? Larry Hughes used to be a high-scoring, fastbreak-initializing All-Star swingman. Ben Wallace used to be a high energy, scrappy post man All-Star, as well. Damon Jones used to be the one of the best 3-point marksmen in the league. Wally World used to actually look like he was somewhat of a contributor on the floor at any given venture. Why do these guys not get better under the King's watch? Better yet, why do they cease to even maintain their level of play under LeBron's tutelage and intangible "better-making" abilities? Yeah, he makes fancy passes and has a spotless on-court reputation, but where's the actual evidence that he makes anyone better? Please tell me ... I have yet to come across it and would really like to be proven wrong.

And then there's the fact of LBJ simply not being a winner. His first two years in the league he missed the playoffs entirely when the Eastern conference was at an all-time historically weak period. In his rookie season, the lowly Celtics were the 8th seed with a record of 36-46. In his sophomore campaign, he put up a better fight yet still missed the after-party due to a tiebreaker with the Nets at a record of 42-40. After that he finally drug the Cavs up to being a shoe-in annual playoff team. He even surprisingly took them to the Finals in 2007, only to be put away without a single win against the Spurs. And then came his publicly ordained 2009 season where he was practically guaranteed to come out with a ring. He took care of the season alright, sneaking out a game ahead of the Lakers for the overall best record, yet lost in the Conference Finals to extensive underdogs, the 3rd seed Orlando Magic. Whom, as everyone knows, the Lakers disposed of in 5 games for the crown.

Lastly, there's the hard truth which no one wants to admit. LeBron James is good for absolutely nothing on the defense end of the court besides rundown blocks in fast break situations. Somehow his ESPN highlight reel, made up singularly of those very things, has led to him having a reputation as a premier NBA defender. And that, my good friend, is bull ish. I have never seen him give a full game where he digs into a defensive stance on the perimeter or holds his ground in the post against a big man. Scratch that; I haven't seen him do either for a full quarter of any given game. He is blessed with an unbelievable NBA physique and literally has no physical limitations. So why is there not a single NBA wing who's afraid of being contained by LeBron? Did he cover Hedo or Rashard Lewis effectively in his latest playoff series? As a matter of fact, those are the very exact standout performers who hit all the shots in the clutch. But James was content to take whole games off by covering Rafer Alston whenever he was on the court (and even he went off for a 26 point game against the King). What happened to the best player on the floor stepping up in dire situations and demanding a matchup against the biggest threat on the opposing team? It doesn't happen regularly or in any important instances with LeBron.

Here's my last claim. I know, like every other person in the world, that LeBron is maybe the most gifted athlete ever, in that he can jump out of the building (almost literally) and run faster than anyone his height and mass should ever legally be allowed to. But that alone is not enough to give anyone the right to claim that LeBron is the best basketball player in the world right now. I even read a column on ESPN just this week that mentioned in passing that LBJ is already one of the top 5 greatest players in basketball history. Yet others would argue in separate instances that Kobe hasn't even cracked the top 10 yet. This sickens me. Until LeBron James actually does something to set himself apart in the National Basketball Association, I will still be sickened by it. I understand that he gets lots of triple doubles. That's really cool. But until he develops some semblance of a legitimate jump shot, actually executes a post move capitalizing off his physical stature, shows that he cares about and is dedicated to mastering every microcosm of the game, wins a championship, or steps the hell up and becomes a man on defense, then he's just another freakish superstar with a career in the vain of a post-2000 era Dominique Wilkins or Pete Maravich. That's all. Oh, and he's never allowed to miss another 5 games in a row because of a non-shooting hand fingernail injury ever again. I swear, though, that I will continue to be open and perceptive for the rest of his career. If he becomes an actual complete player (like everyone pretends he is now) and a winner, then he's inherently in the all-time conversation. But not yet, people.

Meanwhile, Kobe's running the entire league under his completely disfigured fingers (on his shooting hand, mind you) and is still somehow less appreciated by the viewing public and reporting media than David Stern's predestined poster boy. All because Kobe doesn't smile as pretty. And as a major P.S., you can weigh the sins yourself if open judgements of personal life contribute to your view of either star ... committing adultery versus having multiple children out of wedlock, open admittance of frequent marijuana usage, claiming nothing is wrong in your actions after being pulled over speeding by 36 mph, and simply being a pouty sore loser. Whichever way.

Closing question: Whose model of a standard are you holding LeBron James to? That is, if you're holding him accountable for anything at all.

... but do take my word for it.

1 comment:

  1. I could have wrote this in a few seconds.

    Lebron is crap.



so what did ya think about whatever the heck i wrote?