For sports fans, media, and organizations there is no end. There is always a next play, game or season. For players, their career is only so long, so while they strive for excellence, I hope they learn from the experience. There is a lot to learn from sports. I encourage every child to participate, because good or bad, there are infinite lessons to learn. One of the biggest lessons of them all, no matter how successful you are, people will want more. Prime example; LeBron Raymone James.
LeBron James: 3x Ohio’s Mr. Basketball (2001-2003), 2x USA Mr. Basketball, the 2003 McDonald’s All-American MVP, 2003 first overall pick, the 2004 NBA Rookie of the Year, the 2008 NBA League Scoring Champ, the 2013 Associated Press Athlete of the Year, a 4-time MVP and a 3-time NBA Champion. That may be less than half of the man’s accomplishments, but for some reason that just is not enough for some people.
That is not enough because all we do in sports is compare and compete. Just like American economics, enough is never enough. It can always be bigger, better, faster, smarter, cleaner or cooler. Perfection does not even satisfy us because perfection does not last. In the rare event perfection does last, we get bored with it. Is there an end?
Due to the pressure and scrutiny of being a professional athlete, on top of being a world icon, everything LeBron does is under a microscope. If he tweets, we read it. If he wins, we analyze it. If he loses, we destroy him for it, regardless of the circumstances.
This year, in his thirteenth NBA season and now past him prime, he is facing the Golden State Warriors. Those Warriors are just the reigning NBA champs and currently have the current 2x MVP on their roster. Not to mention, they are the best shooting back-court in NBA history and have one of the best defensive players in the league (Draymond Green) as possibly their third best player. While all that may not seem like much for “The King” to overcome with his hand chosen roster, let’s also consider that under normal conditions winning a championship is hard. Extremely hard. No teams other than Michael Jordan’s Bulls and Bill Russell’s Celtics won them with much regularity.
Now do not get me wrong, 3-4 in the finals is not exceptional, but it is far from the abominable reputation it gets from many knee-jerk fans and ratings-hungry media members. It should surely not be an argument against LeBron’s greatness. He has been to seven NBA Finals for crying-out-loud. There are a lot of great players who never got to half of that.
LeBron is considered, in most opinions, the best player since Jordan; which includes the likes of Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, and Tim Duncan who are all first-ballot Hall-of-Famers. Why does he need to be better than Jordan? That may be his goal, but it is no requirement. In some aspects his game is better than Jordan’s, that does not change how great he is. In other aspect’s he may lag behind, but what does that matter? Why is cherishing the fascinating play of one our generation’s greatest athletes so difficult?
He has given us basketball “wow-moments” every week during the NBA season for almost a decade and a half. What joy does it bring you to remind others what Jordan, or Kobe, or Magic would have done? How about considering that you will likely never see a player like him again? LeBron could retire any year and leave us with a much less intriguing league than we are used to. You think the Eastern Conference sucks now? Imagine the Warriors vs. Raptors in the NBA finals.
The same way we pushed Kobe to be the shining star of the Lakers for 20 years, we have been pushing LeBron to carry an entire conference and we might just push him out of the league. He does not need this. He has accomplished everything there is to do in basketball, apologies if it has not come in the quantity, time or place that you requested it, but if you just sit back and think about it you will realize it has been more than adequate.
LeBron has been under the spotlight since he was 16. He is the over-hyped story you have been told about for days and when you get to see it play out, it is everything you could ask for. No, he has not had the same career path as Jordan, but why should he? The best thing about life is that it is different for everyone. We all have our own individual story. LeBron is his own person, he should not have to be anyone else. The Jordan story is old. I do not want it again. I want different and that is exactly what I have gotten ever since that big kid from northeast Ohio ended up on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
Do not be upset because LeBron may never surpass Jordan in championships. LeBron has achieved his own greatness, different from anything we have ever seen before or will see again. If he never wins another championship with the Cavaliers, he is still the greatest thing that ever happened to Cleveland. How many NBA players can say that about a city?
For more on LeBron (and some of his struggles) click here