As many of you know, I write for the TrueHoop Blog on ESPN. I posted an article on TrueHoop Friday morning entitled “LeBron James is the next Michael Jordan.” You would think there would be no reason for me to post another article here on Limited Playmakers (even though I find this site to be the best up-and-coming sports blog out there), but you would be wrong. What you read on TrueHoop Friday morning (May, 27 2011 – the day after the Heat beat the Chicago Bulls in the Eastern Conference Finals) is the edited version of my LeBron article. ESPN would not allow me to post the original. Thankfully, Long Ball Larry graciously agreed to post the authentic article here on LP. Thanks again, Long Ball. Here is the unedited version:
I was reading last September’s issue of GQ Magazine (the one with LeBron on the cover) like I have done every morning since it first came out. My wife was making a cup of LeBron (what we call tea at our house).
She does not watch a lot of sports, but she does watch a lot of interracial porn, and she wanted to talk about LeBron James’ performance against the Bulls the night before.
I thought this was strange, of course, considering her lack of interest in what I do for a living, but I never pass up an opportunity to talk about The King. I could feel a slight chub starting to form as she began to speak.
At every moment, she explained, she expected James to jump over everyone on the court, give the crowd the middle finger and dunk on Kobe and MJ in their prime. He didn’t jump over anyone, flip the crowd off and Kobe and MJ were not in the building.
But close enough.
That’s not normal in basketball – a game I know very little about. But it is normal for my wife to conjure up images of pure dominance when it comes to men as masculine as LeBron.
Looking down, at the well-used and extremely sticky pages of my GQ Magazine, I began to feel sorry for LeBron. Even on the day he made the Finals, I knew people were going to start talking about how he told the entire city of Cleveland to go f*#! itself on national television. I knew they would never let him live down his decision to team-up with someone who is consistently counted as one of the top-three best players in the NBA, Dwyane Wade. There was no doubt in my mind people were going to throw a hissy fit about Chris Bosh being the third option on his team, even though Bosh is only one of the 15 best players in the league.
What does everyone have against LeBron? I kept asking myself that question as my wife continued talking and my chub began to fade.
Looking up, at my wife, it was clear as day: She had just defined “my soulmate” and it was LeBron James.
Scottie Pippen was on Mike & Mike a couple of hours later.
Michael Jordan is probably the greatest scorer to every play in the game, but I may go as far as to say that LeBron James may be the greatest player to ever play the game.
Here we were, in the hunt for that guy forever and bingo. Two objective eyes from outside sports (I say that even though I write for ESPN and my wife is, well, my wife), or Pippen’s perspective from a guy who could never get out of Jordan’s shadow and may be using this as a way to finally see some sun, were arriving at a big conclusion that had lost to so many in a haze of ridiculous over-the-top celebrations, references to oneself in the third person and the lack of any sort of competitive spirit.
The seeds of James’ certain doom have been identified by a cast of thousands (Microsoft Word’s advice for that sentence: Passive Voice – consider revising. I didn’t consider it). I remember making up a story about an NBA powerbroker telling me last summer that if James didn’t win a title soon, all that “Witness” stuff was going to look incredibly stupid (remember, I am supposed to be an objective eye from outside of sports who happens to talk to an “NBA powerbroker” from time to time). The teammates he chose are in some cases (Dwyane Wade) just as talented as he is. There is way too much partying in Miami. He doesn’t perform at his best in crucial parts of big games, like against the Celtics last year (his elbow seems to have healed nicely), and the Magic the year before. He shoots fade-away 20-footers too much. He turns the ball over too much. Why the hell does he talk about himself in the third person? He left. He bent the city of Cleveland over and raped the shit out of it. He threw a party in honor of accomplishing nothing. He’s too big and strong (wait, that’s not a criticism at all, and no one has ever used it to critique LeBron, but I just can’t stand repeating all of the negative things people have said about my soulmate, without telling everyone how big and strong he is first). He is completely fake: “I got a goal, and it’s a huge goal, and that’s to bring an NBA championship here to Cleveland, and I won’t stop until I get it.”
Almost all of that (my too big and strong comment aside) is valid criticism. He is absolutely perfect, though, and I just don’t see how anyone could hate him. Most of the bitterness, however – especially that not from the city (Cleveland) with the bloody anus – strike me as fancy manifestations of jealousy. Everyone is just jealous they can’t call D-Wade and ask to join his team.
Jordan was an otherworldly player, but he was perfectly packaged in a TV era. Back when leading a team to six championships, and destroying every other player/team in the NBA was a lot easier. James is a similarly otherworldly wet dream, with a giant package, in an information age when it’s damn near impossible to get away with things like pounding millions of sluts and hope you don’t get caught (Tiger Woods!). The days of gauzy perfection are gone – we, as fans, know way too much about quitting, tone-deafness and celebrating championships in the offseason, these days.
This is what sports heroism will feel like from now on. It will feel like someone just ripped your heart out, skipped town and joined someone else’s team equipped with two bona fide All-Star’s, with one of them already proving themselves capable of winning a championship.
They did this to young Jordan, too. Look it up yourself. At some point before his first title, he was clearly the best player in the league. But that story was too simple, too wrong, too premature. To be considered the greatest player in the history of the NBA you need a championship ring — go figure.
We all know rings are based on an inordinate amount of luck, health and team. They are the most ineffective way to measure whether or not someone is a winner. Whether or not someone is a champion. You can’t look dumb calling a champion a champion. But that doesn’t mean I can’t write an article calling someone the best ever just because they don’t have any rings on their finger.
Through it all, though, the god known simply as LeBron has been discredited and his production was somehow obscured. Sure, he won back-to-back MVP awards, nearly every writer has been calling him the best player in the league for at least three years, and I picked his team to win-it-all the past two season’s (only to see my arch-nemesis, Kobe Bryant, hold the Larry O’Brien trophy, along with the Bill Russell NBA Finals MVP Award both years), but every time I call James the greatest I am accused of bias. Those who saw Jordan do things LeBron can only dream of, they were the objective ones. They were right. Give me a break.
Now, to watch James play, without bias, is to WITNESS his ability to not only be compared to the greatest of all time, Michael Jordan, but to be considered Jordan’s superior in every imaginable way.
It’s noteworthy that to the people I call the high priests of objectivity in hoops – the geeks who make up formulas to try and prove LeBron is Jesus Christ himself – James has long been, almost no matter how you analyze (with the exception of proving it by accomplishing the game’s ultimate achievement: a championship), the best player in the league, and Jordan’s only rival. Daryl Morey said a few months ago that it was hard to identify a flaw in James (notice how I didn’t mention James’ game there, just a flaw in James period. Also, notice how I never bring up how LeBron – despite his size and the position he plays – has no post-game whatsoever), and John Hollinger (the other ESPN guy who looks like a penis) first made a very strong, evidence-based (evidence he created) “he’s the next Jordan” case years ago (back when Kobe was winning all of those championships), and nothing much has changed since then (LeBron still hasn’t won any championships).
James has been my soulmate for a while. Use your highlights, your numbers, or simply a pair of open eyes. Whatever the tool, just realize I am writing this article after the Miami Heat won the Eastern Conference Finals, and not the NBA Finals. It seems LeBron’s character is rubbing off on me a bit. I hope it’s not the only thing he rubs on me.