Until I saw LeBron James for the past few seasons I thought I saw all I needed to see from The King.
For the majority of his prime, I was one of the “LeBron Haters.” I rooted fervently against him ever since he left Cleveland and celebrated his failures on Twitter with nearly as much energy as my Chicago Bulls’ victories. No matter what he did for the community, for his teammates, and for the league I held “The Decision” against him as a selfish act of publicity seeking (all proceeds went to charity).
Up until last season, I ripped him for being whiny, taking games off, and not respecting his coaches. All of that aside, I am writing this more as a testimonial than an article. LeBron James is just the best and smartest player in the world. And the NBA will never be the same because of it.
A Shift In Geography
What we are witnessing today is the true beginning of the “superteam” era. This will in my mind be also known as the “run west to join forces and avoid LeBron” era. LeBron is often maligned by critics who say that his brand of the Eastern Conference is weaker than the conferences that previous greats had to go through in order to reach the promised land. What people fail to realize is that part of the reason the Eastern Conference lacks stars is because nobody wants to go through Cleveland in order to reach the NBA Finals.
It is true that a lot of the NBA’s stars were simply drafted out west. Steph Curry, James Harden, Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, Demarcus Cousins, Russell Westbrook, Damian Lillard, and other elites were all drafted to their respective teams. The draft picks in the East have been underwhelming during that span which contributes to the talent gap. However, there are reports that Paul George is LA bound and that Kyle Lowry will be testing free agent waters as well. Being that Lowry “just wants a ring” chances are he will be headed out West to join up with already established teams that need a point guard (New Orleans?). The future of the Clippers and Chris Paul are anyone’s guess right now even though a lot of people are saying they would like to see CP3 replace Tony Parker in San Antonio if the veteran point guard cannot recover from his torn quad. NBA stars today would rather take their chances joining up and battling out West for the chance to see LeBron in the finals as opposed to getting bounced in the second round. Dominance causes a vacancy in surrounding areas and that is exactly what LeBron has done to the East.
The future of the Clippers and Chris Paul are anyone’s guess right now even though a lot of people are saying they would like to see CP3 replace Tony Parker in San Antonio if the veteran point guard cannot recover from his torn quad. NBA stars today would rather take their chances joining up and battling out West for the chance to see LeBron in the Finals as opposed to getting bounced in the second round. Dominance causes a vacancy in surrounding areas and that is exactly what LeBron has done to the East.
The LeBron Praise Choir
One thing about today’s NBA I cannot stand that reared its head YET AGAIN these playoffs is the amount of over-friendly antics amongst today’s players. I do not expect these guys to hate each other or be out for blood. However, there is a severe lack of the amount of venom and competitive spirit that can be found on any playground in America on the 5 on 5 battlegrounds. Every team LeBron James and Co. dominates there seems to be a shower of compliments from opposing players and coaches which is a phenomenon that I have never seen before.
After being swept and disrespected by LeBron and the Cleveland Cavaliers DeMar DeRozan said, “If we had LeBron on our team, too, we would’ve won”. As a competitive basketball player growing up I cannot possibly imagine any words like that coming out of my mouth to anyone after taking a beating over a week and a half by a better team. There is something to be said for that competitive fire that makes you go back and use the pain and anger to sharpen and hone your skills. Even if a player personally feels that way there are other guys in the locker room that look to you for leadership and accountability on and off the court and DeRozan dropped the ball in both places during that series.
DeRozan was not the only Raptor in awe of Bron. on May 6th following their game 3 loss Kyle Lowry told yahoo that he had no answers either.
(via The Vertical):
“They’ve got LeBron James,” Lowry told The Vertical. “Nobody’s closing the gap on him. I mean, that’s it right there: They’ve got LeBron James and nobody’s closing the gap on him.”
I mean come on..this is during the series and these guys are GUSHING over the player who is handing them a swift end to their season. Winning is not just a physicality it’s also a mentality and LeBron’s influence affects players in both realms.
“Back In My Day”
The saga of LeBron James will always be compared to that of Michael Jordan whether people like it or not. Both players are historically transcendent both on and off the court and dominated basketball as stars among stars. Like Jordan, LeBron will be single-handedly responsible for a new wave of Hall of Famers that will be without championship rings. Carmelo Anthony, Paul George, Lowry, DeRozan, and others will likely never get a chance to raise a banner simply due to LeBron’s pure dominance throughout the last decade and a half. It is the fate players face when a generational talent rears its head.
However, I never heard of any players of past eras ranting and raving over an opponent from the days of Russell and Wilt to the days of His Airness. I mean really. I am not condoning violence but what happened to these days?
I wasn’t there but I doubt John Starks or Xavier McDaniels were talking to the media about how wonderful things would be if MJ was on their team. The other stars of the league really need to buck up but I guess the plan is to wait for LeBron to get old and retire.
LeBron’s legacy will leave many lasting positive impacts on the league. The man has been nothing but a great ambassador for the league and a beacon of hope for the community. However, I have become fatigued by the groveling of his other competitors and coaches. Our games other stars grovel and worship James in press conferences while running to the West to avoid him.
I am eagerly awaiting the next defiant superstar to challenge the reign of the King.