Best player in the world, huh? Best ever, you say? Better than Jordan, even?
To keep it simple, a man can chose to argue from any perspective he wants if his aim is to present a case to support his King, if you will. If you want statistics to back you up, you can find those. If it’s rings you fancy, or MVP awards, those can go along way toward winning your argument, if that’s what you desire.
Thing is, you can win an argument, but it doesnt mean you are right.
A month ago, shit, a week ago, people were actually making a case for Lebron James being better than Michael Jordan. Hell, Scottie Pippen said it and got plenty of people to argue with him or at the very least, entertain the notion.
Of course, nobody is willing to do that today.
Not that this is a new story. Honestly, it started the day LeBron entered the league. Since then it’s been a rapid ascension from “best rookie” to “better than Jordan was at this age” to “best in the world right now”, almost as some sort of formality. In recent years the argument has become sufficiently moot in the minds of the pro-LeBron people, so much so that they’ve rendered it’s a dead subject, no longer open for discussion. To Suggest otherwise to these people would likely be dismissed as anything from ignorance to utter denial.
And yes, this was supposed to be the last stop to the top of the mountain. Even those who doubted James’ greatness felt the need to concede after LeBron led Miami’s destruction of the Bulls in the Eastern Finals. If the time was indeed at hand, we were willing to give the man his just dues (or at least I was), and were also aware that this was likely to be just the first of many championship parades for the Heat. As well as Dallas had played to get there, they looked an awful lot like “opponents” for Miami, the last victim for the team that could no longer be denied.
Of course, it didn’t work out that way, and for that James deserves to shoulder more of the blame than most. What sense can be made of his latest failure? Where to start?
Well, what I know for sure is that LeBron was outscored in the NBA Finals by Jason Terry, who took about 25 less shots and played about 60 less minutes. And Chris Bosh, too. In the most important Basketball series of his career, LeBron scored about 17 points per game, and took just 15 shots, both numbers way below what we have come to expect from him.
I’m also pretty sure that a player of supposedly unrivaled talent and ability isn’t supposed to be so easily flummoxed by the opposing defense, even if they schemed well as Dallas did, specifically by changing the rotations and cutting off his driving lanes, forcing him to live and die by what he can’t do (shoot) and/or be tempted to force himself into the paint against his better judgement. They gambled that he couldn’t consistently hit from long range or throw a monkey-wrench in their plans by taking himself into the paint and forcing them to deal with his post-up game. Not only did it work, but it went so far as to discourage him enough to withdraw in the last two games, almost to the point of anonymity.
Shit, in the end the Mavericks exposed James’ lack of actual Basketball skill (and his lack of faith in his outside shot) and his undeniable weakness when it comes to being willing and able to makes himself responsible when it matters most . The guy we saw in games 5 and 6 was a man who was all too willing to cede control of the team to someone else in hopes that he could be bailed out, which makes him more Tonto than the Lone Ranger, more Chris Webber than Michael Jordan. This wasn’t a guy who didn’t have the help, either. Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh played well here. Almost well enough to make up for James’ failures, in fact.
Year by year, the excuses well has run progressively drier. Where once it was the fault of the rest of his team and lack of supporting talent, that is no longer the case. All of the games in these Finals were lost by Miami in what is commonly referred to as “winning time”. There now exists a real lack of plausible excuses for coming up short again, scurrilous rumors aside.
Which brings be back to the start. Nobody can reasonably deny the otherworldly talent of LeBron James. Just as fair to say that there has never been another like him. What all of that means at the end of the day is diminishing greatly, day by day. I mean, if you value all of that over what it takes to win when it really matters, over what it means to succeed in the biggest of moments, then you are not someone who can be swayed in your beliefs. LeBron will always be the King to those who wish it so.
Thing is, there comes a time when you have to realize that what you wish for somebody to be has very little to do with what they are. James is alot of things, but there are too many components missing for him to ever really be what people have wished him to be. He is not the finisher enough, not driven enough, he is not the player enough to take his place along side the very best the game has seen.
Still, people insist that his time is coming. It might, it might not. The bigger point is, he isn’t ever going to be what people wanted him to be.
This guy is not that guy. Never will be. End of story.
Now then, go find the next savior to annoint. There’s always a new one out there, if you squint just right.
John Hathwell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org