Monday, April 30, 2012

The essence of LeBron James

LeBron James might be the most talented player to ever touch a basketball… So why do so many people hate him?
by Chris Cappella
There was something about game one of the Heat-Knicks game that made me as unbearably mad as I’ve ever been watching a sport. Of course I am a Knicks fan, and watching a 32-2 run against your team in the playoffs gets to be as unwatchable as ever, but it wasn’t just how the Heat did it, it was who did it.

It felt like LeBron James scored every single point during that run. Fade away with a hand in his face? No problem. Corner three? No problem. An and-one from 20 feet out? And bank it? It was too easy! The burn of James spurning the Knicks still runs deep. He didn’t just reject the Knicks, he rejected the Garden, the history, and most importantly, one of, if not the, best and most knowledgeable fan bases in all of sports. Look at how Jeremy Lin took the city and sports world by storm, LBJ could have had that for TWO years now.

When it comes to James you either love him or hate him and there is no in-between. Everyone in the world has an opinion on him, but why? Why is LeBron James one of the most polarizing figure in all of sports?

James played high school ball at St. Vincent-St. Mary in Akron, Ohio where he won Mr. Basketball at the ages of 16, 17, and 18 years old. James could have gone to college wherever he wanted but instead entered his name into the 2003 NBA draft (this is an important fact for later). The story got better when his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers, one of the unluckiest franchises in all of sports, were awarded the first pick of that draft and got one of the most talented, physically gifted players to ever come into the NBA.
Lebron James was treated like a God in Cleveland.

The 6’8, 250 pound James had enormous success with Cleveland despite the fact that the front office did an awful job surrounding him with legitimate talent. James was 2003 Rookie of the Year, two-time MVP, and NBA scoring champion, and has been on the All-Defensive and All-NBA first team nearly every year of his career. LeBron took the Cavs took the 2007 finals where they were swept by the San Antonio Spurs.

James now has the knock of not being clutch, which can be very unfair. In his playoff debut he threw down 32 against the Wizards in the process of getting a triple double, becoming only the third player in NBA history to have a triple-double in their playoff debut. Through the 2003-2009 seasons, he had the most game-winning shots made at 17, more than Kobe, Dirk, Wade, and others.

In 2010 though, it all changed. LeBron, despite being the most talented player on planet Earth, had never won the big one and now had the label (whether it is fair or not) of being “un-clutch”. In all of his years on the Cavs he really had no supporting cast. The likes of Mo Williams, Antwan Jamison, Ben Wallace, and Shaquille O’Neal all played but not at high enough levels.

So in 2010 James became a free agent and left, something he really shouldn’t have been criticized for except for the fact that he did a one hour ESPN special to rip the hearts out of everyone from Cleveland and teamed up with his buddies Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, all Olympic caliber players.

Unfortunately it doesn’t end there. After Wade, James, and Bosh were officially all teammates Miami held a… parade of sorts. The purpose was to rally the fans and introduce them to the “Big 3”. Between a Sportscenter special and a parade before the season, not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, and not seven million people hated LeBron but just about everyone outside Miami did. This is where I believe not going to college really hurt him. Was LeBron recruited? Yea, he definitely was, but when most people are sure you’re going pro it’s just different. He let all the wooing and love from coaches and executives in the NBA get to him because he never really had that before. This is no different than the Dwight Howard situation now. It was too much, and his PR crew handled it awful.

So Lebron, who so desperately wants to be loved by everyone, is now the villain. In Cleveland he was more than loved, had fun, and was the man on that team. Now, everyone outside of Miami wants him to fail and there are really no excuses. The talent around him is unreal. Year one was considered a failure because of a loss in the championship, what will year two bring? For the sake of LeBron, it better be a championship.

James is 27 and has been in the league for eight years. There are many different sects between NBA fans, but none are probably larger then LeBron hater or defender. Defenders will correctly note that it took Michael Jordan, the NBA’s greatest player, six years to win a ring and he needed the likes of Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman to do so, guys James never had the luxury of playing with. Year one of the Big 3 was mostly about feeling each other out and everyone getting roles. It was an incomplete team that lacked a point guard and a center, which are obviously very critical for a team’s success.

But I’ll tell you what just really irks me about LeBron, something I realized now more than ever. He is easily the most talented player in the world, but still has to go team up with his super-talented friends to try and win one, something the likes of Jordan, Bird, Thomas, Malone, and Ewing NEVER did. When it is smooth sailing for Miami, LeBron is throwing down dunks, knocking down shots, and pounding his chest like a madman. But you and I both know he wants nothing to do with the big moment. He deferred taking the last shot in the All-Star game for goodness sake! When he was knocking down everything! Even Kobe couldn’t help but laugh.

Stuff like that is what compelled me to write this article. One of the most talented athletes the NBA has ever seen had to “take his talents” to South Beach with his friends and still can’t get it done. Worse than that, he doesn’t look like he wants to anyway. James might dominate my Knicks, average 30 and 10 for the series and move on to a different test. I won’t be surprised at all. I also won’t be surprised when he shy’s away from the big moment.

And that’s what makes me most mad.

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