Wednesday, June 8, 2011

In Defense of LeBron James

I have always been conflicted about LeBron James. Coming out of High School I felt there was too much hype. When he took the Cleveland Cavaliers to the NBA Finals I applauded him and his ability to carry a team on his back. When he had "The Decision" on ESPN I thought he was being arrogant but respected his desire to want to win. I am not really a "LeBron Fan"; I respect him and think he is the best all-around player in the NBA today. But after last night's game with the media and fan backlash that has been thrown his way, I think someone needs to defend LeBron James.

I do not understand the excessive vitriol that has been directed towards LeBron James. On one hand people expect too much of him. He is not the "Next Michael Jordan" and there will never be another MJ. The closest thing we have in the Post-Jordan era of the NBA that can be considered to be "Like Mike" is Kobe Bryant. But even Kobe's numbers and all around game is not exactly on par with Jordan. LeBron James is similar to Michael Jordan in one major aspect: there never has and there may never be another player like him. LeBron grew up watching MJ and every kid at some point wants to be "Like Mike". But LeBron is three inches taller then Jordan, physically stronger, and is a better passer then MJ. LeBron James is basically a taller, stronger, more athletic modern day version of Oscar Robertson.

Also, I do not understand the "LeBron Haters". What has LeBron done that is worth anyone hating him? Has he raped or abused women? Has he killed dogs? Has he killed someone while drinking and driving? Has he been accused or caught using steroids or other perfomance enhancing drugs? Has he lied to the public about something of moral relavence? The answer to all of these questions is NO! Yet, we have given numerous athletes second chances who have done all of the above, but people despise LeBron? I understand some people are tired of hearing about LeBron James. I know some people hold the whole Decision fiasco against him (although we forget that the media enabled him to have such a platform in the first place). The fact that there are so many "LeBron haters" out therer only shows me that too many people have their priorities mixed up. Kobe Bryant cheated on his wife (atleast one time we know for sure about) and yet Kobe is "respected" as a winner.

Have we forgotten that LeBron James is 26 years old? I ask that question seriously because aside from Kobe Bryant, no High School to NBA star player has won an NBA championship at a young age. Yet Kobe had the help of a superstar (Shaquille O'Neal), a legendary Head Coach (Phil Jackson) and was surround by veteran players who were leaders on and off the court. When LeBron James went to his first NBA finals his supporting cast consisted of a Center who had trouble staying healthy for a full season (Zydrunas Ilgauskas), a player who was drafted ahead of Paul Pierce to be the wing-man for Allen Iverson (Larry Hughes), their best 3-point shooter was two years younger then LeBron (Daniel Gibson) and their Head Coach was in his second season as an NBA Head Coach (Mike Brown).

So when are we going to give LeBron James some kind of slack? This is his first season playing with a other star level players in their primes and with a supporting cast who has atleast been to a few all star games in the past. LeBron carried this team during the Heat's run to the NBA Finals. But yet he gets labelled on Twitter "LeBrick" after one game? Sure he went 3-11 from the field, but what about that game Chris Bosh had earlier this postseason where he made one shot out of almost 20? Where is the criticism of Dwayne Wade who late in the fourth quarter missed a big free throw shot and turned the ball over in crunch time? Where is the criticism of Heat Head Coach Erik Spoelstra for not giving his players better offensive plays in the fourth quarter? Instead everything is LeBron James fault?

The fact that I have to defend LeBron James is a reflection of the reality that fans and the media have become so reactionary. The criticism of LeBron has been over the top and excessive. Let us not forget he led the Heat last night in assists and rebounds, so its not like he didn't do anything all night. LeBron is one of the most talented basketball players to ever play in the NBA but we really need to stop comparing LeBron to the greatest players of all time and expecting him to be what he is not. Remember he is only 26 years old so he has many more years to become better and make his legacy. We do not remember all of "bad" games that Jordan, Magic, or Bird had, so why should we hold this one game against him?

1 comment:

Mackenzie said...

It was a really bad game. Worse than Kobe or Wade ever had in any playoff game, let alone a pivotal finals game.