What do you see in this pic? Something genuinely family or otherwise?
In an age where LeBron James is unfavorably compared to the arguable GOAT Michael Jordan at every turn exclusive of sharing the same number, what James has accomplished in his much scrutinized 12 NBA years is as incredible as any athletic feat imaginable. Appearing in his 5th straight Finals and 6th overall during that span will be what most attach their emotions to in these social media debatable days, but what is more remarkable about LeBron James, sports first social media superstar, is his ability to lead with the coolest of demeanor amidst a white hot world microscope. After he left Miami with 2 NBA titles in 4 tries, you’d think the criticism would fall silent, but even as Cleveland sits precipitously above the unyielding abyss, many still doubt LeBron’s preternatural ability to stare into the logic drowning flames decidedly below, and potentially claim a title 51 years lost to the melancholy depths of Lake Erie dystopianism.
“I’m the king of rock, there is none higher
Sucker MC’s should call me sire
To burn my kingdom, you must use fire
I won’t stop rockin’ till I retire
Now we rock the party and come correct
All cuts are on time and rhymes connect
Got the right to vote and will elect
And other rappers can’t stand us, but give us respect”
At the pro sports benchmark age of 30, LeBron is as weathered as any superstar ever living. It seems as if he’s endured many athletic lives given his travels from an Akron wunderkind, to becoming a Cleveland prodigal son, making a polarizing decision to leave the city in metaphorical and literal shambles bouncing to Miami, winning twice and losing twice in title opportunities with the Heat, and finally returning to Ohio and the region that loves him the most. Now is his time to make it all right, and an explosive statewide sports and social celebration beckons.
After James won his first title in ’10, and then went back-t0-back, the sports media at large relented in its outlandish criticism of LeBron. The ridiculousness of Skip Bayless and other seeking-attention-in-the-moment punditry fell to the insidious shadows as it should. It was quite encouraging for once to hear, read and see the dead air of those hypercritical of James scattering and scrambling to change their narrative of an athlete that should be admired in these searching for negativity driven times. Many fans critical of LeBron, because of what sports has unfortunately become, entered an unrealistic subjective realm of comparing James to the ghost of Michael Jordan as if Jordan himself would somehow suit up and hand check the best player on the planet at such an advanced age.
Y’all trippin’, and sports truly has become too much of a distraction.
If Michael Jordan played today, there’s a great chance he would be even more hated than LeBron. Jordan was one of the best athletes of all time, but, he beat up his teammates, gambled his ass off, didn’t say much in anything positive socially, and stamped his name on a sneaker brand that has caused all types of ruckus among people who can’t rationally afford the cost. He was as protected on and off the court as if he played in past eras where Mickey and the Babe did their dirt as the media at large remained clandestine of their sometimes immoral exploits. Take that how you will, but nothing can be said of LeBron in anything that falls against his standing as a credibly responsible family man and super willing teammate.
We’ve become this thing socially where those of a keen public relations eye smile for the cameras as the sleaze of celebrity lives is never truly tested unless the powers holding the keys intend for something otherwise. So why does this hate of a soul model like LeBron James exist? He’s done most things right at such a relatively young age. How are we honestly comparing LBJ to a just now great Stephen Curry despite Curry’s lack of playoff pedigree? It’s as if LeBron and Steph are same age peers as the narrative suggests. Why aren’t we allowing the legend of LeBron to become legendary so the kids of us see and become his example as we have so many before him? Are we so predisposed to hate greatness that our minds look the other way as he has created space, and took pressure off 3 teams of teammates, and spending exactly half his career in the NBA Finals?
Why is he only pulling in 21.57 million in 2015 when his predecessor Michael Jordan raked in 33 million in 1998? That was a helluva long time ago, and despite a media boom that has created global revenue streams for the league of untold measure, elevated NBA salaries have somehow ceased to exist? The NBA sure drives a hard bargain despite it’s global standing. It can be said that because of The Decision, and the journalistic aftermath creating this bull NBA economic market, that LeBron James is the reason ESPN and TNT will pay the league a startling 2.66 billion a year for the next 9 seasons beginning in 2016-17.
Annual avg value of new NBA deal soars from about $930M to $2.66B. New deal starts after 2015-16 season.
— Richard Sandomir (@RichSandomir) October 6, 2014
James has many options, and could shake up the league by playing for a different team each season if he so chose. It’s a move that would force ownership to dig deeper in their pockets, and pay players on a higher scale because of simple anticipation of his next place of business, while also shedding light on just how much the league is generating globally given foreign markets are exclusive of the so-called basketball related income. As corporate profits grow and wages slide, I suppose much of the shade thrown LeBron’s way is embedded in his choice to buck the system, and control his destiny. Fans are rarely critical of ownership moves to cut players without notice, yet will forever criticize a labor force utilizing a right to move as they please armed with talent they alone developed.
But…all is good now that he returned to Cleveland correct?
The doubt still exists, and despite being readily known that a possibility of LeBron averaging an Oscar (triple double) in these Finals with a much better team than many presume, an unproven Golden State squad is considered the favorite. This championship series is reminiscent of a Charles Barkley led Phoenix Suns team that lost in 6 to the Chicago Bulls in 1993. Barkley was league MVP a year after exiting a Philadelphia team unwilling to surround him with championship caliber talent. That season, the favored 62-20 Suns had a magical regular season and playoffs before the real MVP Michael Jordan and the 57-25 Bulls quieted all that favorite chatter.
The MVP of 2015 is Steph Curry. It seems as if he made every play possible as Chuck did in 1993 despite the real MVP being LeBron James. He’s dispatched of friends before in the NBA Finals in Kevin Durant, so no intimidation or uncertainty will deter him from achieving a collective Cleveland roar.
With Kobe Bryant on the last legs of a most stellar career, LeBron is the only league shape-shifter. Until a better player comes along, or age becomes a factor, LeBron will decide every title for the foreseeable future. Who else can we say that about in this current league? He’s done all this without the talented coaching of Greg Popovich or Phil Jackson by his side. The MVP has become a joke in a league LeBron has dominated. Perception is surely not reality, because in 12 years of league play, his teams have competed to be the last team standing 6 times. Some point to Tim Duncan and the aforementioned Popovich as LeBron’s thorn, and there is a thought that Ray Allen stopped a Spurs dynastic run in fluke like fashion, but being Allen is one of the best shooters of all time, his three in Game 6 was most definitely nothing to dismiss historically because Game 7 went to the Heat. Dead that narrative. I will say that San Antonio is his nemesis just as Jordan feared facing Dream Olajuwon and the Houston Rockets. If you want to defeat LeBron, your coaching better be otherworldly, because if second half adjustments are not made, James will scorch you with Oscar Robertson like stat lines.
LeBron has become Wilt Chamberlain; a polarizing figure who does it big regardless of who says what he can’t do. Despite Wilt’s incredible statistic accomplishments competing against more talented Celtics teams, his success has largely been discredited because he didn’t win as much as Bill Russell. Wilt had no peer, yet because the Celtics dominated the sixties, Russell is elevated above Wilt. How is that it possible that Wilt’s detractors point to an era where he supposedly dominated short white men, yet Russell is not criticized for such? We gotta chill with this David vs. Goliath BS just to stroke our insecurities. When we do so, we don’t give ourselves a chance to evolve mentally or physically…objectively. The Celtics mystique back then was real and it was written of men ensuring that mystique remained intact, so Wilt’s legacy suffered accordingly. LeBron is Kareem’s sky-hook, Wayne Gretzky’s slap shot, Barry Bonds’ timing mechanism, and Serena Williams’ serve and volley. He is the definitive prototype as he crosses into the fast approaching career arc twilight. We await the next prodigy, and coincidentally, that man could be the reigning Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins. You know, the man the Cavs traded for the now injured Kevin Love when Love was considered the chess piece to lock up a Cleveland championship? Cleveland that move will haunt you, but you can’t be blamed for going for broke after half a century of not winning anything true of note.
So here we sit, the day the NBA Finals tips in wonderment of what will transpire in these last NBA games of the year. I, for one, don’t think this will be much of a series as many are making it out to be. When the rock is in the King’s hands, check the look in his face. It’s a look he hasn’t relinquished this entire playoffs. He has dominated the postseason, and doing so with Jordan like eyes.
Haters get your fix before tonight’s tip…
Cleveland Knicks in 6.