First off, I would like to say welcome back, to any former readers. After a 4-month hiatus, I am happy to announce that I hope to begin writing regularly for “1st and Inches” again. In the time that has passed; the Broncos won the Super Bowl, the Warriors and Spurs completed 2 of the most impressive regular season’s in NBA history, and Stephen Curry has won yet another MVP award. That all leaves me with lots of stuff to talk about, but instead of rehashing the past, I would like to focus on the present and what is fresh. Oddly enough, what is fresh, is nothing new.
For the past decade roughly, the NBA has been LeBron’s world and everyone else has just resided in it. In that time, no other sport has had a star so unrivaled. That may be due to the fact that one player in basketball has a far greater impact on each game, but it also derives from the greatness of LeBron James. He will likely go down as one of the most dominant and versatile players in the history of the sport. He, like Magic Johnson, is in a class of his own, a basketball unicorn of sorts. There is no comparison to LeBron. The trouble in that is, how does one compare LeBron to Steph, Kobe, MJ, or any one else? He is not your average forward, guard, scorer, ball-handler, defender or anything else. He is a little bit of everything. This is not a story about all the things LeBron is great at, however, this is look at some of his struggles.
For everything LeBron is on the court, he has his short-comings that tend to affect off the court personnel. He is a bit of coach-killer (he’s currently on his 6th coach in 13 years), I fault his versatility, his vast skill set allows him to act as basketball “white-out”. At a glance, he covers up the mistakes and errors of his team, but that leads to them faltering when playing competition that can expose his teammates or force him to do too much. Take last year’s NBA Finals for example, LeBron had to be the Cavs’ primary interior and perimeter offensive threat, be an elite perimeter defender, and the primary ball-handler/distributor on a team that was lacking weapons and depth due to the injuries to Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving.
You can also fault LeBron for being a questionable “GM”. Obviously, he is not the actual General Manager for the Cavs, but if you pay attention to the NBA then you know that stars control the league. The Cavs ownership will do whatever possible to make sure LeBron stays in Cleveland, and that means fulfilling every roster request and paying 65 million dollars in luxury tax fees on top of a 100 million dollar payroll. Now, of course this is all Dan Gilbert’s (the majority owner) choice, but it is LeBron who wanted to add Iman Shumpert, JR Smith, and Kevin Love and re-sign Tristan Thompson to a max salary, at the expense of Andrew Wiggins (the marquee player traded for KLove) and ownership’s wallet. Obviously all of these pieces were vital to the makeup of a championship caliber roster, but you have to wonder if they were the best moves. JR Smith is inconsistent, Iman Shumpert is limited offensively, Kevin Love has struggled to mesh his offensive game with Kyrie and LeBron, and Tristan Thompson seemingly has no offensive skill set outside of putback’s and alley-oops. All of their struggles are basically on LeBron. If the team wins a title, you have to credit him for the acquisitions, but if they fail when LeBron only returned to Cleveland to bring home a championship, then it is clear who to blame.
Lastly, LeBron can be immature. To be fair, he did join a league of adults when he was 18 and has assimilated without any major criminal or moral scandal, but he has not always been the best at dealing with things. While I do not fault LeBron for deciding to take his talents to south beach (Miami), The Decision was the culmination of National Signing day meets pro-sports. In my mind, it was embarrassing that he could not tell his teammates and the Cavaliers executives before announcing to the media his intentions. Though some would argue the secrecy of the event increased its entertainment value and that is the purpose of the NBA as a whole. You can also look to his interview after losing in the NBA Finals to the Dallas Mavericks. He, immaturely, took shots at the media and the public, to help himself deal with the frustrations of losing and struggling in the series.
To be more holistic, I would like to add that LeBron is still far and away the most impressive NBA player of my generation (I was born in the mid/late 90’s). While Kobe is probably a better pure scorer, Tim Duncan is a more established champion, and other players may have statistics that outshine The King, LeBron can do it all and as I have illustrated above, may even do too much. Nobody else has been asked to do more nor has anyone else delivered more greatness, in my time at least, that you can even compare to LeBron. As much as you can blame him for some of those issues, you also have to credit him for trying. It says a lot when someone places that much responsibility on their own shoulders. I will always believe that, if nothing else, LeBron cares.
Read all about LeBron’s greatness here