Lebron James is a better basketball player than you think, by a longshot. The other day it dawned on me just how good he is. Obviously, there is no way to talk about him in 2014 without reference to the decision and the pep rally that followed a few days afterwards. Yes, the one in which he exclaimed that the Miami Heat would win, not 1, not 2….championships. The sports world, and to some extent the world-at-large, was so offended at his arrogance and ego that they openly rooted for him to lose. For many he became a basketball Icarus flying too close to the sun, they wanted him to crash and burn. His hubris would lead him to failure and then remorse. A tragedy in three acts, the story was going to play out before our very eyes.
The fact of the matter is, regardless of how ridiculous those boasts seemed at the time, LBJ is up there flying and doesn’t appear heading for a crash anytime soon. He has won two championships, two regular season and finals MVPs, and an Olympic medal. This season he has reached his fourth consecutive finals since that Joe Namath moment. He has backed up all that braggadocio with the best four year stretch of basketball that I have witnessed by someone not named Michael Jordan. Lebron has had twelve 30 point, 10 assists, 5 rebound games in the NBA Playoffs since going to Miami. The whole rest of the NBA combined has eleven. The man is so good it is absurd, so good he is even defying ancient mythology.
With this historic display of athletics going on before our very eyes, it is expected that Lebron would be lauded as a demigod the way Bird and Magic were. However, that is far from the case. Imagine if in the summer of 1990 Michael Jordan stated he was going to win the next three finals, two MVP trophies and an Olympic gold Medal to boot. Further imagine that he then went out and achieved those things. He would have been fifty times more glorified than he already was. Contrast this with Lebron, who it appears, is only begrudgingly given praise. Whereas people watched Jordan with awe, Bron is watched matter-of-factly. With Jordan we jumped out of our seats and screamed to the heavens after an amazing move, with Bron we collectively yawn at his greatness as an expected afterthought.
The amount of scrutiny athletes are under today is magnified more than it was in the past. The media/bloggers/tweeters dissect every move in a manner that was not possible twenty years ago. Yet with all this increased eyes watching every move, how is it that the dominating game this man is producing is not being applauded more? Anything less than perfection would be a failure for him, yet when he is performing as perfect as can be, it’s as if no one is watching. Meanwhile, lesser players like Yusiel Puig, Mike Trout, Jeremy Lin, Tim Tebow, Johnny Manizel, and Bryce Harper were all praised as sports saviors. Is the rush for the next best thing greater than actually witnessing the current great thing?
Anyway, LBJ is not whining into a river. He has more than enough hardware to prove his place in history. I also imagine he is one of those guys whose legends will grow after he is finished playing, similar to the tales we hear of guys like Cool Papa Bell, who was so fast “he could turn off the light switch and hop into bed and under the covers before the lights went out.” I imagine what it would have been like to have witnessed him or Jim Brown or Babe Ruth in their primes. Well, with Lebron James we don’t have to imagine. Don't take it for granted.
As always, thanks for reading.
Twitter - @RYANNARsayshi