Friday, June 21, 2013

On LeBron James

In thinking about how LeBron James plays basketball, and how people react to him, I have decided that the best analogy to James is not Michael Jordan, or Kobe Bryant, or Magic Johnson -- but Wilt Chamberlain.  Like Wilt, LeBron is simply blessed with unworldly athletic abilities -- which mean that many times, he can win a game simply by being faster and stronger than the other guys on the floor.  And so folks think he should win every time, and they are unwilling to give him credit for his ability as a basketball player.  This is made even worse by the fact that James's outside shot has a tendency to fade in and out like a distant radio station, and that he will occasionally make really dumb plays -- such as his turnovers near the end of Game 6.  When you see him make those type of mistakes, it's easy to think that he just gets by on pure athleticism, and that his actual basketball talents are limited.

But this isn't really fair.  It's true that LeBron relies a great deal on his athleticism -- but he would be crazy not to.  It's also true that he works exceedingly hard at the game, and that he has gotten more fundamentally sound with each passing year.  (I think getting out of Cleveland, and getting around a solid coaching staff and other great players has been excellent for him.)  So at this stage, anyone who is still griping about LeBron is really just being mean-spirited.

(And spare me the conspiracy theories, at least for this year.  Nobody would have a conspiracy that can only work if Ray Allen hits a three-point shot with 5 seconds to go in Game 6.)

I didn't have much interest in these playoffs, until the very end, because I was so certain Miami would go all the way.  So for me, this was a pretty boring NBA season.  But I remember when Larry Bird was my favorite NBA player, and I wanted the Celtics to win every game.  And I know that a lot of people today are huge LeBron fans, just as I was a huge Bird fan.  For LeBron fans, this was an almost-perfect season, and it ended with their guy playing what may ultimately be regarded as the signature game of his whole career -- 37 points in Game 7 against one of the great teams in NBA history.  So I'm happy for the LeBron fans, and I hope they enjoy these memories for years to come.


  1. A few things:

    -- I absolutely don't believe that NBA games are scripted. But I am dubious of a league culture that accepts the notion that some guys have "earned" officiating favor and some haven't, and I think it's unfortunate for great players like LeBron James, Michael Jordan and Larry Bird that such a jive culture is given quarter. Also, I do wonder about the league's central-casting department.

    -- There exists a really good case study within the story of Wilt Chamberlain's and Bill Russell's roles in the famous 1965 "Havlicek stole the ball!" game about the relationships among fact, journalism, history and legend.

    -- Let's get to the real story of last night's 95-88 Miami victory. Six hours before tipoff, Go Heath writes at the HP, "That would work out to something like a 98-92 win for the Heat, which would actually be the most entertaining Game 7 we've seen for a long time."