Lebron James is not clutch.Lebron James is not a good shooter.Lebron James should shoot a better percentage from the free throw line.Lebron James is a serial “flopper.”Lebron James is just bigger than everyone.Lebron James built his team. Lebron James vanishes in big moments.Lebron James will never be better than Michael Jordan.
These are some of the comments I have heard about Lebron James during his career. I think some of these comments are fair and accurate (See:Lebron James will never be better than Michael Jordan). On the other hand, some of the comments are as illogical as a person who believes the world is flat.
Lebron is one of my favorite basketball players of any generation, but I am not a Stan by any means. By that I mean, I can objectively examine any player’s game, and acknowledge weaknesses and areas for improvement. If someone has an opinion that is different from mine, I have no issue having a discussion, so long as it is respectful. That said, I have talked to many people about the game of basketball during my life. During the last 10 years or so, quite naturally, Lebron James’ name is usually mentioned in conversations about professional basketball because he is the best player in the world. When people make comments about why they do not like him, I always ask them to explain why. In many cases, the explanation does not make a lot of sense (I will not use the word “hate” because that would be too cliché). The purpose of this blog is to discuss some irrefutable facts, as well as some opinions regarding Lebron’s career.
Expectation: A belief that someone will or should achieve something.
How many times have we heard of the next great player? Now, in all honesty, how many times has the "next" great player met expectations? Now of that small number, how many have actually exceeded expectations? I honestly cannot think if any basketball player who has exceeded expectations like Lebron. From the time he was a teenager, or maybe even before, he has been analyzed, scrutinized, and placed under a microscope by the media and any with an opinion (Remember: Opinions are just like assholes-we all have one).
Lebron was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated as a teenager and dubbed “The Chosen One.” He was expected to be a once-in-a-generation talent. Check. He was supposed to skip college to enter the NBA draft. Yep. He was expected to become a perennial NBA All-Star. Yeah, buddy. He was expected to be a gold medal winner. Check, again. He was supposed to win NBA MVP award(s). Yes. He was supposed to win NBA championships. Yep. His accomplishments are irrefutable. The fact that he has exceeded expectations at every juncture of his career is also an irrefutable fact.
Lebron Would Not Dominate Other Eras in the NBA
One of the more illogical arguments I have heard is that Lebron would not be dominant in the 1980s or 1990s. This is laughable at best, and idiotic at worst. People argue that Lebron would have struggled to adjust to the physical nature of the game in the 1980s and 1990s. I think people forget just how much of a physical specimen Lebron really is. This dude is 6’8” with a 40 plus inch vertical. Oh, and he weighs between 250-260 pounds. When he entered the league, he was easily the best athlete in the NBA. As he has aged, he has become so much stronger and developed a back-to-the-basket game. He would have probably been even more dominant given the fact that he would either be guarded by small forwards weighing 200 pounds. Or, teams may have tried to put a bigger, slower power forward on him. Oh, and, by the way, zone defenses were illegal back in those days. In the famous words of Liam Neeson in the movie Taken: “good luck.”
The greatest players in the game are as lucky as they are talented. You have to be somewhat lucky to play hundreds of games without physically breaking down. Look at Michael Jordan’s career, for instance. After he broke his leg in the 1985-86 season, he remained relatively healthy for the remainder of his career. If we examine Allen Iverson’s career, it is clear that he was pretty healthy until his last playing days. His record of good health enabled him to consistently play at a high level and, in turn, to put up hall-of-fame numbers.
If we look at Lebron’s career thus far, he has not been bitten by the injury bug. He experienced some minor back issues a year or so ago, but nothing too major. I think a big reason he has been healthy is because of the advancements in preventative medical procedures, as well as other technological advancements for those who are injured. Either way, if Lebron is able to maintain his health on the back end of his career, he will have some of the best statistical numbers in the history of the game. Those numbers cannot be ignored. That is sustained excellence.
Top Five Player of All Time
I think it is time to acknowledge the fact that Lebron is a top-five player in the history of the game. He is easily the best small forward to ever play the game. His numbers over his 14-year career support that contention. For his career, he has averaged 27.1 points per game, 7.0 assists per game, 7.4 rebounds per game, and 1.6 steals per game. He has four NBA MVP trophies. He has won three NBA championships. He has been to the finals six years in a row. For those who do not like Lebron’s demeanor, or his off the courts habits, let us focus on the numbers only. If we do that, it is impossible to reasonably argue that Lebron is not an all-time great player. Have there been better shooters? Sure. Have there been better passers? Absolutely. Have there been better rebounders? Yes. Have there been players with better winning percentages? Yes. Have there been players with better “clutch” genes? Yes. But, it would be very difficult to identify a player who has sustained his level of excellence in so many different categories for so long. Do not get me wrong: Jordan is the Greatest of All Time. But, in terms of who will be considered the second best player ever, Lebron is positioning himself to be in the conversation.