Thursday, July 4, 2013

From the call to the choosing to the delivery - a decade of Lebron

Lebron James came into the basketball spotlight just as I was starting to become an avid fan of the NBA. While Carmelo Anthony was making the word Syracuse more popular around the USA, Lebron was showcasing his arsenal of talent in preparation for the NBA. I had left Syracuse for MIT, and found uninterrupted and ubiquitous internet supply which allowed me to appreciate them both. Because I was a big fan of Melo, I couldn't really be a big fan of Lebron. They were rivals, and fans support accordingly. Lebron was going to go as the first draft pick, beating out Carmelo. It was to be dark o! Because one Darko Milicic (the next Dirk Nowitzki) went #2, consigning Melo to #3. Carmelo has acquitted himself really well in the NBA. Darko has only seen dark days. Lebron? What a career he's having and a player he's turning out to be. This is where, who and what he's supposed to be.
I tweeted the above after Lebron had won his second straight Finals MVP and championship, and he had pronounced something that struck me. He was either taking a small shot at Cleveland (again) to let the whole world know it's Akron he calls home and not the state of Ohio or talking about his humble beginnings. He did have those but he was really supposed to be here - at the top of the basketball world. He made SI covers while in high school, had his high school televised live on ESPN and was pronounced the next generation of Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson all rolled into one. He had to live up to some serious hype and we have to thank him for living up to it. Because many were called, few were chosen and only a couple delivered. The mailman put him at the 4 (power forward) in his all-time lineup. Lebron has become a Karl Malone who can shoot, defend and win championships. Wow!

Lebron's NBA debut was special. His Cleveland Cavaliers didn't make the playoffs in his rookie year, unlike Carmelo's Denver Nuggets but Lebron was already one of the NBA's best players. He was part of a rebuilding project, and turned it into a playoff team with minimal talent. Name 5 Lebron teammates from 2003-2007 who would have made any kind of NBA team (all-star, three-point contest, all-defensive) or won an award (sixth man, defensive player of the year). The guy did a lot with less. He was a running triple double and was getting PERs (player efficiency ratios) not seen consistently since Air Jordan. He was a mainstay on Sports Center too with nightly highlight plays. Passes, dunks, blocks, Kobe-degree of difficulty layups, etc. I was a witness. After a owning a budding rivalry with the Washington Wizards, Lebron and the Cleveland Cavaliers finally reach their first NBA finals in 2007 facing the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs are my team so I was supporting them to win. And win they did. Tim Duncan won his 3rd ring in 5 years and famously told Lebron after that finals "This is going to be your league in a little while, but uh, I appreciate you giving us this year".

2008 arrived with the Boston Three Party which proceeded to dominate the NBA and eliminate Lebron at an earlier stage than the year before. The Boston Celtics would turn out to be the elephant in the room. The hump Lebron James needed to get over to claim his throne as King James. The Big Ticket's injury had the Celtics limited in 2009 so everyone expected a Lebron-Kobe Finals. The famous puppets commercials lent credence to it happening and the battle to be the next Jordan was on. Dwight Howard (who people say looks like me but this is something I don't really see) had other ideas. He must have grinned from ear to ear after his Orlando Magic upset the Cavs (inspite of this shot) and not stopped smiling till the Los Angeles Lakers beat them in the NBA Finals after Orlando's three pointers had magically vanished. Lebron had to deal with the Celtics again in 2010, and this time he had the famous and old Shaquille O'Neal for company. It didn't matter. Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins prevailed again. I am a Celtics fan so I was loving this. This drove Lebron to wonder if he could beat the Celtics without a better surrounding cast.

I wanted Lebron to stay in Cleveland. Michael Jordan didn't leave Chicago when he had gone years being the best player without a ring. He got a better coach in Phil Jackson and Scottie Pippen and then had the best basketball run in a lifetime. Lebron should have done that. He could have. Instead, he decided to leave Cleveland, and join up in free agency with 2 of the top 10 players in the NBA, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in an infamous decision. He would win titles with the Miami Heat but he was likely out of the Greatest Of All Time conversation with what would get him the rings. And then he famously pronounced the not 1, not 2, not 3, not 4 championships soundbites which brought him even many more detractors. The vitriol he viewed vat 2011 season vith vivacious vim vrom vociferous viewers vas venomous. The basketball legends chastised him for joining in with Bosh and Wade as well. When the season ended with Lebron James clunking it up in the NBA Finals and the Miami Heat losing to the Dallas Mavericks, Lebron must have had his darkest moments.
He only came back stronger. The season before, he had finally jumped over the Boston Celtics hump with some remarkable performances. The Finals loss was the final right of passage for the Heatles. They dominated the 2012 regular season. In the playoffs, they started to end the Boston Three Party when Lebron had a game for the ages in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals. That was the biggest single game he's played. They made sure the Oklahoma City Thunder would continue their own right of passage by beating them in the NBA Finals. Lebron won his first ring and first Finals MVP, which for me is the category he has to be getting more into if he's going to touch His Airness. Lebron only got better in 2013 to win his 4th regular season MVP trophy in 5 years, and lead the Miami Heat to a 27 game winning streak. After almost losing the title to my San Antonio Spurs, Lebron made a huge 3-pointer that set up the Ray Allen shot from above that would made many say "Jesus!" to give the Miami Heat a lifeline. We all know what happened after.

You have to admire his bravado though. From joking with Cleveland teammates, his Lebrons videos, amongst other things, there are many things to like about Lebron. Please, no jokes about his hairline :-) Even many Cleveland folks love him now after burning his jersey when he left. Aside the fact that he's simply the best basketball player we've seen in a decade. He came into the league right when Michael Jordan finally said bye. You couldn't script this any better. Lebron James is on top of his game right now. He has a jumper, he can go down low, he's one of the best defensive players in the game, doing things like this and that. Maybe he will just take part in the NBA Slam Dunk competition once and for all and win that Defensive Player of the Year award. I know he wants to be known as the best ever to lace them up. He only has to win maybe 3 more championships to rival Michael Jordan. While he is at it, he will need the narratives too. Because as good as MJ is still untouchable, his career story is cinematic. Try topping the 'Flu Game'. Good luck, Lebron, you seem like a nice guy.

Post a Comment

Disqus for The Vim Views & Versions - Blogs of a MIghTy African