Tonight, the basketball equivalent of the Khymer Rouge (not really, but I figured if everyone else could claim to hate Lebron James, I could indulge in some hyperbole) meet the basketball equivalent of the Salvation Army (that’s the charity, not the paramilitary wing of the Alliance Party) in Oklahoma City as the NBA finals reach game 2. With exaggeration and over-reaction the name of the game these days, of course we all understand that there is no way the Miami Heat can come back from a one game deficit. In almost three-quarters of cases, the team who wins game 1, wins the series. Of course, the team which wins game 1 is more often than not the number 1 overall seed, or at least a team which defeated the number 1 seed.
Some pundits felt that the occasion of game 1 would get to the younger Thunder players and that the more experienced Heat roster might be able to capitalise. Of course, we all know that Kevin Durant came out balling and the Heat couldn’t cope with average games from it’s number 2 and 3 superstars.
The emergence of the Thunder as legitimate title contenders must have sent shivers down the spines of at least Pat Riley and Lebron James, if not all persons interested in basketball outside of Oklahoma. The superstars are young. The role players are young. The role players are all very good or excellent at one thing which means they can play serious minutes in important games. This team could, injury permitting (and you can never rule out the prospect of injuries derailing anything, isn’t that right Chicago?), contend for the next ten NBA titles.
Another consequence of the rise of the Thunder is that the best player in the NBA, or perhaps the most talented, might never win an NBA title. Lebron James has been nothing short of a phenomenon since he began to feature in national media a decade ago. Let’s not forget that his 18th birthday present from his mother Gloria (and perhaps also his estranged father…Delonte West…) was a Hummer, for which she secured the loan based on her son’s future earning power. Imagine he’d wrecked that car and smashed his legs?
There is a popular viewpoint (although given that it’s popular, it’s not really a viewpoint, it’s a trend) that if Lebron doesn’t win an NBA title, he can never legitimately be considered one of the best players ever. This makes the massively erroneous assumption that it’s in some way easy to win an NBA title. Statistically, Lebron is giving NBA fans 26ppg, 7prg and 6apg for his career. Compare that to 25.4ppg, 5.3rpg and 4.7apg from Kobe Bryant, or even the 30.1ppg, 6.2rpg and 5.3apg of Michael Jordan and you have to say that Lebron deserves to be spoken of in elite basketballing company.
The critics, of course, argue that it’s not the statistics, it’s the personality. Because they all know him so well? No, because of massive assumptions they’ve made based on the views of people who don’t know Lebron very well either.
He’s all about the brand? I assume you won’t be wanting the new Jordan XI’s when they’re released? The whole concept of a brand traces back to the black and red Jordan I’s for which young Michael was fined every time he wore them in games. Magic and Bird wore the same shoe.
He’s arrogant? Re-read that bit about his mum buying him a Hummer age 18. Go back and look at the Sports Illustrated cover from his senior year in High School. The media built him up into this global phenomenon and deservedly, but it fails to see the cruelty when it decides to pick him apart?
Look at just about every decision he’s made since he came into the league and try to convincingly argue when I say that, actually, he’s done pretty well given how f-ed up his life has been. Multiple kids with multiple women? Or two kids with his childhood sweetheart? Gun charges? Getting into fights in nightclubs?
You don’t like “The Decision”? Well, you should know that it raised $6million for various charities. That tenner you gave the girl you fancy for her 10k doesn’t seem quite as impressive any more, does it? Also, do you think it was Lebron or ESPN who really drove that programme?
The “Chosen 1” tattoo? Because it’s in some way worse than Marquis Daniels’ “Healthy Woman Roof” (look it up)? Or the innumerable “the game chose me” type tats that everyone gets?
Whether Lebron James wins an NBA title or not, we should be appreciating watching this guy and not getting overly involved in something which we ultimately shouldn’t really care all that much about. It’s just sports, after all.