Thursday, June 9, 2011

LeBron's Rough Draft

For years I've defended LeBron James. Always electing to give him the benefit of the doubt when it came to his recurring post season collapses, stretched out free agency stint (not making his decision until a week after he officially became a free agent, thus stagnating the Cav's abilities to pursue other high caliber free agents) and his eventual decision to "Take his talents to South Beach". It may have taken some time, and a Knicks postseason birth, but I've finally come to realization that a 25 year old choosing to go play a game for a living, in a beautiful city, with his close friends does not make him the antichrist, much to the dismay of the media.

Let's face it- James isn't Jordan. This became clear eleven months ago when he decided to team up with what should have been his arch nemesis on the court. If you can't beat them, join them, and LeBron came to that decision on his own. This may have been the first time that we fully realized he wasn't Jordan. Surely the greatest basketball player of all time would never have done such a thing, but perhaps we should have realized that a few months earlier when he decided that he would change his number from 23 to 6, out of respect for Michael.

The thing is, LeBron never wanted to be Michael. We wanted him to be Michael.

We longed for someone to marvel at the way we did with Michael. Which is the absolute root for all the constant criticism, comparison and micromanaging we do on a hourly basis with this guy. Take LeBron's over-analyzed Game 4 Houdini act in Dallas where he disappeared in the 4th quarter, tallying a beyond lackluster 8 points in a game where he was the fifth best player on his team. This led to everybody and their mother writing columns, posts and tweets bashing his heart, drive and to a degree, skill set. I saw several statuses the day after where people listed Jordan's point total from every Finals game that he ever played in, to beat in the fact that he never had a point total close to LBJ's "8" in game 4. But what good does that even do? If you've been paying attention for the last year you would know that LeBron is not Michael.

What made Jordan the most feared and respected player in the game was his killer instinct. A competitive force inside him unlike anything we had ever witnessed before be it on the basketball court, golf course or poker table.

In times of adversity, or when things weren't going his way, be it as far and few between as they have been, we've seen LeBron take a backseat approach and fade into the shadows. Maybe LeBron knew that about himself last summer and hoped that by joining the Heat, his friend Dwyane would be there to pick him up when the going got tough. That by joining forces together, they could coexist at the top of the N.B.A. throne for the next decade.

But to quote Coldplay front-man Chris Martin from his song "The Scientist", "Nobody said it was easy, no one ever said it would be this hard." I think that is what LeBron didn't take into consideration when he bolted Cleveland for Miami, a move that in any other profession or situation in life would have been looked at as a no-brainer.

Like a loaded pair of dice, the storyline of LeBron's season had already been predetermined long before he would first don that red and black Miami Heat jersey. The bulls-eye had been placed, the villain cast and the script written. The only thing not set in stone was the ending to this movie, an ending still very much in James' control as this N.B.A. Finals series morphs into best of three, winner takes all for N.B.A. supremacy.

Now is the time for LeBron to truly show us what he's made of. He has been knocked down, but will he get back up? This series has already provided us with more storylines and memorable moments, comebacks and collapses than we ever could have dreamed of, and the best is yet to come.

Michael Jordan's legacy has already been scripted in stone. LeBron's legacy is still its "rough draft" phase, but a heavy portion of that legacy will be determined in these next few nights, and I for one, will be enjoying every second of it. Let's save the MJ comparisons for when LeBron retires, and if he has six rings by then, maybe we can talk. But for now I'm just going to enjoy watching LeBron James for who he is, LeBron James.

-fresh (@danye33)

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