Lebron James: An Appreciation of an Artist
You don’t need me to tell you that Lebron James is good at basketball. For 10+ years he has been in the national spot light. There is a generation of basketball fans who have never not been aware of Lebron James the basketball player. Four MVPS, video game like stats and finally last year that elusive NBA title have cemented his place as one of the greatest to ever play. I don’t need to tell you how good Lebron James is at basketball…
Except that I worry that I do. I don’t think enough people truly appreciate what we are witnessing. This is a front row seat to Mozart writing symphonies, Daniel Day Lewis pretending to be other people, Da Vinci inventing shit or whatever other cliche you prefer to illustrate an all time great in their very element.
Does anyone realize he was the best scorer, passer, rebounder, shot blocker and on ball defender on a team that spent a solid 2 months decimating all comers? Has any one ever been able to guard a wider range of opposing players? Let me answer that question for you with a resounding NO. Scottie Pippen was the previous record holder in that category but he could be bullied by some of the much larger men. Lebron outweighs Scottie by about 30 pounds. Not even Dwayne Johnson is muscling Lebron down low.
With the exception of hard core NBA followers I don’t think enough people appreciate the changes in his game this year. He was already the best player in the world but he spent the Summer at Hakeem Olajuwon camp for post moves. More importantly he planted himself down on the block most games, a place where he is borderline unstoppable. He stopped settling for jumpers, only taking them when he is either wide open or it is absolutely necessary. These 2 small changes resulted in a 56% field goal percentage this year. He’s a wing player for God’s sake! His greatest contemporary, Kobe Bryant, never topped 47%.
He shot such a high percentage because of his unselfishness and innate passing skills. Great passing is a combination of skill and choice. Not every one has the court vision and physical skills to be a great passer and even worse, some who do have it make the decision to instead take a contested shot themselves rather than find an open teammate. He is the teammate we all wish we had every game we ever play in our lives.
When he blocked Tiago Splitter on Sunday night I let out an overly enthusiastic yelp that make my fiance jump. I rewound to show her the play and had to explain why it was such a ridiculous play. The hardest way to block some one is straight on. Few men in the world have the combination of strength, size and athletic ability to block the 7 foot Splitter in that situation. Lebron James does. he has it all.
All of it, the passing, scoring, defense make him a once in a life time talent. He is the most irreplaceable player in the NBA. His coach, Erik Speolstra devised a “small ball” line up focused around 3-point shooting and ball movement because he could. Spo could play him with any 4 other players because he knew Lebron could fill in the blanks and provide whatever they needed. No other coach had that luxury. By the way, the Heat won 66 games playing this way.
I’m an advocate of appreciating greatness while we have it. It is often too short lived. That’s why I never change the channel if I see Miguel Cabrera or Mike Trout on TV. Same for Peyton Manning or Adrian Peterson. That’s why I buy Lupe Fiasco records and appreciate Kate Upton while gravity is still on her side. One day the greatness you took for granted is gone, and it never comes back.