Defining LeBron

Young TigerThere was once a time in history when every single one of us rooted for Tiger Woods.  After all, what wasn’t to like?  He was handsome, personable, a smiling young man who represented change in a game that had historically been associated with the upper class.  He was a minority dominating a sport the way nobody had before.

Then he had a change of identity.  He wasn’t who we thought he was.  His approval ratings plummeted.

When LeBron James came into the league, few of us had seen anything like him.  He was a big man with small man skills.  Our restricted minds couldn’t help but compare him to Magic, Michael or anyone else we could think of who had revolutionized the game.

Make no mistake about it.  LeBron was, and still is, doing just that.  No man his size has dominated quite like he has.  When Michael Jordan played, there was no clear-cut second best player in the league and if there was, he was nowhere close to Michael’s skill level.  It’s the same thing with LeBron James.  Regardless of who you might think is the second best player in today’s game, he’s nowhere close to LeBron.

LeBron is already sixth on the all-time playoff scoring list behind Michael, Kareem, Kobe, Shaq and Tim Duncan.  He will eventually pass all those guys and become the all-time career playoff leader in scoring.  He’s also 17th all-time in the playoffs in rebounding and get this… 4th all-time in assists in post-season history behind Magic Johnson, John Stockton and Jason Kidd.

LeBron dunksThat’s insane.  What’s even more insane is that LeBron James is only thirty years old.

But we don’t like him… or at least the majority of us don’t.

Years ago, when Cleveland drafted the hometown product, LeBron was headed down the inevitable path of bringing a title to a town that hadn’t seen one in half a century.  Rooting against that was like rooting against puppies.  LeBron’s storybook, his long, arduous battle to stardom, had begun.

Then came the decision, LeBron’s plaid-clad announcement that he was headed southbound.  His approval ratings plummeted everywhere outside of the Sunshine State.

Once in Miami, LeBron did his best to embrace the bad guy role.  The problem is he’s genuinely a nice guy.  The black hat didn’t fit.  While true basketball fans watched on in amazement, those living outside of South Florida openly rooted for him to fail.

Now, he’s back in Cleveland and once again in the NBA Finals, his fifth in a row.  It’s the first time that anyone not associated with the Celtics dynasty has accomplished that feat.  To make matters worse, LeBron is playing against a likeable team, the Golden State Warriors, so rooting against him once again comes easy.  While most of us wouldn’t mind seeing Cleveland win a championship, those who can’t stand LeBron would prefer they didn’t.

Michael trophyYears ago, back when everyone was a Bulls fan and rooting for Michael Jordan to add to his string of championships, I had one friend who hated him.  No matter which team the Bulls played in the Finals, this guy rooted for them.  And he was a bitter fuck for it because Michael never lost.

It’s a little easier for the LeBron haters…  because he has lost.  The comparisons to Michael are over or at least they should be.  While this will be LeBron’s sixth Finals appearance, Michael won all six of his in storybook fashion.  LeBron has not.  One of these days, we’ll recognize that LeBron is making his own mark on the game and not someone else’s.

At only 30, LeBron James is ever-changing and evolving, just like the rest of us at were at 30 years old.  The key difference is that, at thirty, none of us were the best at what we did.  Heck, we were just lucky to be somewhat good at our jobs.  We didn’t have the world’s eye upon us.  And we weren’t vilified for making a career move.

Right now, before our very eyes, LeBron James is writing his own story, not Magic’s, not Michael’s, his own.  We may approve.  We may disapprove.  But one thing that is without question is that he is the most ridiculously talented basketball player on the planet.  And he will continue to make an unprecedented mark on the game, whether you like it or not.

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24 Replies to “Defining LeBron”

  1. I can’t believe he is 30. It was like you were talking right to me lol. He is a bad man, no doubt.

  2. I know I bag on the guy, but he just doesn’t invoke a lot of love from me. He is an awesome player no doubt. I will give him his props. He is one of the 5 greatest players ever. How is that for coming around?

  3. Great post SC. And I was surprised to see in that poll (at the bottom of yr post) that what you wrote about seemed to ring true… people don’t seem to want to see LeBron win. Seems to me, he already has & will again & again.
    Thx for another great read.

  4. I don’t dislike LeBron from what I can see from my recliner – it’s the new social media haters that I am tired of. I can’t even imagine what it must be like to have EVERY word / action you say or make be dissected like you were a frog in my 7th grade science class back in the 80’s. Jeez, if the whole world knew everything I’ve said just today, I’d probably be disowned by my family and fired from my job (speaking of which – beer thirty coming). Plus, his back has to be tired from toting the load all of the time. BTW, his talent is undeniable. How fun would it have been to have him on a team with Larry Bird in the playoffs with both at their prime? Bird would have told him “now LeBron, you can have your 28 points, but you’re gonna have to give me my 36 while you are at it – no 44 points for you while I’m here” he he he

  5. Watching LBJ grow up has been a pleasure both on and off the court. Greatest ambassador the NBA has.
    Now….to that Tiger Woods adjective you used…….HANDSOME?? I just made you an appointment to Dr. Vinny Boombatz for an eye exam.LOL You’ll win out only if Hollywood calls. Don’t hold ur breath.

  6. Defining LeBron huh?

    Simple. LBJ is a flat out beast.

    Though I didn’t like the Miami move…Mostly because of the bragging about how many rings they’d win and spectacle of it all. Turns out it was the right move. He leaves, goes to the Finals every years he’s gone, wins two.

    Meantime, the Cavs get three #1 picks so when he goes home he has Kyrie and they flip the other two for K-Love and viola’, he’s in the Finals for the 5th year in a row.

    A weak eastern conf doesn’t hurt his cause, but despite Love and Irving, LBJ dragged this team here. No he’s gotta try to pull out a ring like Love’s shoulder socket…and Kyrie’s on crutches…So he pretty much goes it alone.

    44 points in game one…In OT no less. So it’s not completely out of the realm of possibility…He’s that fucking good.

    My money is still on the Warriors because they are so deep and so talented on both sides of the ball, but watching this guy do his thing is amazing.

    It’s like Magic, Karl Malone and MJ had a love child.

    Early on, I fell into the whole Kobe vs LeBron thing, and let’s face it…I’m just a tad biased due to the colors in my viens, but even back at the peak of the “who’s better” debate I posted a blog back at Fox admitting it was LeBron due to his all around game. That hurt at the time….Now? Not so much. It’s pretty clear LeBron’s skillset is so much more well rounded that it’s not even close anymore. He’s chasing MJ, no one else.

  7. The only thing I ever hated LeBron for was “The Decision.” Not his actual move to Miami. Rather, how he handled it with the TV special followed by the fiasco disco party promising multiple titles with Bosh and Wade. History will be kind to him more so now that he came home and is fighting the good fight for Cleveland. He’s a special, one of a kind talent. Now…if we could get him to drive to the basket a few more times and resist launching from 30 feet so much…and of course…keep his other star teammates in one piece…a couple titles might come Cleveland’s way also before he retires.

  8. i despised lebron for [not just] going to miami but that whole self-serving, contrived decision debacle
    he basically toyed with the loyal cleveland fans hearts — gave them [false] hope — and then stomped all over them
    i became like your friend in the 90’s; rooting for whatever team played the heat — even [as a laker fan] the hated celtics
    but, all that said…
    his return to cleveland was/is very cool
    yes there were other contributing factors, but otherwise a feel good story — especially for cleveland fans
    i don’t root for lebron per se, but i no longer root against him
    as for the finals, i’m pretty geeked
    golden state hasn’t been there in 40 years, and the cavs [although only eight years ago] have never won
    so i’m rooting for curry and lebron, the warriors and the cavs
    may the best team [and guy] win!

  9. D…

    I struggled with this the other night but I have to put him ahead of Larry Bird. Not that I’m a Bird fan, I just recognize how cutthroat that motherfucker was. But Lebron, I think edges him out.

    I can’t put him ahead of Magic or Michael or Wilt or Russell. Those I guess would be my top four of all time. LeBron’s got that fifth spot.

    Any argument from anyone?

  10. MoS…

    You are correct, ma’am.

    The decision to leave Cleveland and the way he did it left a bad taste in people’s mouths.

    Now he’s returned home and is trying to make amends. Only problem is his teammates are dropping like flies with injuries.

    It looks like LeBron’s gonna have to wait for next year for another title.

  11. Moose…

    Funny you should mention that.

    I think the Cavs need one more player. Obviously it helps to have Love and Kyrie, when healthy, but I think they move for another star, who will opt for less money next year, in an attempt to make another title run.

    I hate to count them out but I just don’t see any way they can win this series at this point.

  12. Bets….

    Tiger’s not a bad-looking dude. Is he?

    I guess I’ll have to poll a whole bunch of women and see what they think.

    I mean, the dude’s not ugly. Compared to guys like Jim Furyk and Craig Stadler and Colin Montgomerie, he’s a friggin’ supermodel.

  13. I like the Malone comparisons, Bleed. I’ve always thought that myself.

    I’d even throw in a little Clyde Drexler for safe measure.

    Throw those guys in a pot and you have LeBron’s skill set.

    Here’s my lone flaw with him.

    After scoring seemingly at will, he’s GOT to take a better shot at the end of that game. Drive the lane. Take a higher percentage shot. Draw a foul. One thing you did not want was that game going into overtime.

    Do what it takes to put that ball in the hoop, steal Game One and make a statement.

    He didn’t do that.

  14. Burnsy…

    You took the words right out of my mouth. I just mentioned that in the last comment to Bleed.

    He was posting up consistently early on. It was working. High percentage shots. Don’t launch from 30 when you’re cold. Find the rim again. Keep Golden State on their heels.

    I’m pretty sure they’re okay with him taking shots from Timbuktu.

    It’s at the rim where he’s undefendable.

  15. I…

    I didn’t have all that much of a problem with the Decision, and I know I’m in the minority on that one.

    I will agree that the not five, not six, not seven speech was a bit much but I think we have a lot more reasons to hate athletes these days than for their overconfidence.

    I remember when Shaq left Orlando for the bright lights of L.A. He wasn’t from Florida like Lebron was from Ohio but he certainly appeared to have a bright future with the Magic. We all knew it was a matter of time before he won big.

    As a Magic fan living in Orlando at the time, I didn’t hate Shaq. I understood the move.

    Maybe that’s not a great comparison but it’s the first that came to mind.

    Now if you’re talking Urban Meyer going to Ohio State, well then fuck that asshole.

  16. The hard part for me about putting together any top 5 / top 10 list is how the game has changed. In their day and the way the game was being played then players such as Bird, Abdul Jabbar, Isiah Thomas (and I think he’s a douche), Olajuwon, Moses Malone, etc were such difference makers just like BronBron.

  17. I generally agree with those time machine type arguments, Moose, but I think in this case, with all he’s done, we can safely put LeBron near the top.

    Kareem gets lost in the argument, which is a shame, because he is the all-time leading scorer. Others feel that Wilt doesn’t belong either, which is ridiculous.

    All I know is I’d be hard-pressed to find few players better than LeBron James in any era.

    Like Bleed said, the guy is frightening.

  18. I’m sure it’s pretty obvious who I’m rooting for in the finals. Not sure I ever “hated” LeBron, but I don’t think I ever really rooted for him either. He’s a one of a kind player, and fun to watch whether he wins or fails it’s interesting to see how he reacts to it being under the spotlight for so long. I think it’s funny how people like him more now that he went back to Cleveland, like he did them a huge favor. In reality if that Cavs didn’t have so many injuries, I’d say the supporting cast is much better than what he left in Miami. If he really wanted to impress me he would’ve moved to the western conference. Also, if you didn’t like him in Miami, why would you like him after he went back to Cleveland? That logic doesn’t make any sense to me. Whatever, that’s just the way it goes these days. Opinions change way too rapidly.

    Not sure if you heard E-40’s Warriors song, but here it is if you want to check it out. Easily one of the best team theme songs I’ve heard in a looong time!

  19. Chap…

    Just the mere fact that people are making money writing songs entitled “Yup” and “Yeah” convinces me I got into the wrong business.

  20. Bird did more with less, but I don’t dispute LeBron being a better overall player. The five spot seems about right for him.

  21. Bird did more with less, D?

    He had Kevin McHale, Robert Parrish, Dennis Johnson and Danny Ainge on those rosters.

    I don’t know LeBron’s got anything like that. Three of those guys are Hall-of-Famers.

  22. Chris,

    My question to the commish AS would be, “Why doesn’t LBJ get the same kid gloves treatment that previous s/stars such as Jordan received? Never mind the ticky-tack stuff either, even though the rule changes call for it. The man is getting mugged in the paint.

  23. That’s true, Bets.

    He was hammered at the end of Game Two there, raked across the arms. That could have decided the game.

    Maybe the refs like LeBron as little as the fans do.

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