LeBron James, Easy Target


Wow, everyone has an opinion.  As my dad told me at an early age, opinions are like…didn’t I make a promise to not go “there” in the first paragraph of my posts?  That might be a personal promise to myself.  No cursing and no low-brow stuff until at least the second paragraph or after the jump, that was my halfhearted way to keep this site legit.  Anyway, everyone has an opinion on just about everything these days.  I just watched the Republican Nominees debate out in Las Vegas, they have opinions, people have opinions about their opinions.  Then I jumped on twitter to catch up on these mediation meetings in New York between the NBA and the NBPA, which as I type, is in its 14th hour.

I follow just about every blogger/writer that covers the NBA.  Everyone, I mean everyone, had an opinion about a post on Fox Sports Florida of all places about Lebron James.  The issue, I guess, is that Bill Reiter tried to poke holes in the ranking that ESPN’s entire NBA staff (including many of the TrueHoop guys I follow) came up with.  He took issue with Lebron James being ranked #1.

To me, the rankings thing is played out.  Everyone talks about who is best, all the time.  Michael Jordan was the last unanimous “best.”  No one argued with you if you said, at some point between 1990 and 1999 that Michael Jordan was the best basketball player on the planet.  People would, however, argue with you until they were blue in the face that he was not the greatest of all time.  “Kareem scored more points, was around longer and has just as many championships.”  “Yeah but Bill Russell played better defense than anyone ever, plus scoring plus all those championships!  11 championships!”  “Yeah, but Wilt Chamberlain scored 1oo points in a game, scored 2 championships with nothing but white boys and banged 4 chicks a night!”  “You know, the Big O, Oscar Robertson, he averaged a triple-double for his career” (wrong) “Well for at least a season.”  Everyone had an opinion, even when Jordan was doing his thing, and discussed it incessantly.  It’s inevitable, it’s part of being a sports fan.

Since he retired the first time, there hasn’t been a dominant player of that caliber.  Allen Iverson wasn’t it, Shaq wasn’t it, Vince Carter, Tracey McGrady, Tim Duncan, none of them have been the best.  They were very good at what they did, certainly, but none of them elevated themselves to anything resembling “best” or Jordan levels.  Then Kobe Bryant came along.  Kobe looked like Jordan in his game.  He won some championships, scoring titles, dominating on offense.  But Kobe played the role of petulant child, accused criminal and really, on the court, he was Shaq’s little side-kick.  Once Shaq left, he kept up the guard in Los Angeles and then got Pau Gasol and started winning Championships again.

Then LeBron James came along, at 18 already a freakish physical stature and a true baller on the NBA level.  It took a few years, probably a bit of mental maturity, but Lebron became just as dominating as Kobe.  His physical attributes and basketball skills couldn’t keep up with the nicknames he gave himself, but he has won 2 regular season MVP’s and I can’t argue with that.  I won’t argue with saying that as a basketball player, currently, Lebron James is the best.

That’s where I would have to agree with the ESPN NBA Rankings.  On a scale of 1-10, I’d give Lebron a 9.8.  Those two tenths are because he hasn’t won a Championship,  he wilted like a hot wet salad in the finals and honestly, I don’t like the guy.  I don’t want him to be #1.  I can be honest about that.  I don’t want Lebron James to be considered the best of this generation.

When you think about the NBA today, it’s so specialized.  There’s Dirk Nowitzski who scores, shoots, and is the most recent guy to be both Finals MVP after being League MVP previously in his career.  He pushed the Mavs to win the championship.  There is the whole “big 3” plus Rondo up in Boston, with all their shared talents, if you could build them into a one person-hybrid like Station from the second “Bill and Ted” movie, they’d be considered the best in the league, but they’re not, they’re individuals.  There’s Kobe, who is young but somehow has played like the 3rd most games of anyone in NBA history and one day someone will catch him cracking open fetuses like in the South Park episode where Christopher Walken regained his mobility.  He’s been good for a long time, 5 championships, 2 Finals MVPs and one season MVP, but we all know he wouldn’t have won without Pau or Shaq, so he’s great but not that great.  Derrick Rose won the league MVP last year, but he didn’t push his team to the finals.  In fact, they only won one game against the Heat but he was leading scorer and had 6 assists.  There’s Chris Paul, but the issues in New Orleans negate anything he’s done and I think he was injured for most of the year, maybe not, maybe that was the year before.  The fact I don’t know, takes him out of that “best” argument.

That’s what we’re doing, it’s a process of elimination on my end.  I guess I’m trying to determine who was right and who was wrong in this whole argument, then people started writing bashing the guy who was bashing the ESPN ranking and people have reacted to that all day.  It’s a vicious circle; actually more like a circular firing squad.

If you want to poke holes in someone’s argument, poke holes.  Be honest about it, and your intent.  Just state, “I disagree and here’s why, and oh yeah, here’s where they’re wrong and here’s where I’m right.”  I think Bill Reiter, in whatever he was doing –trying to get hits, trying to get a discussion started, trying to piss someone off, ripping on ESPN because they’re ESPN — whatever it was, he accomplished it.  I didn’t think it was a bad post.  Seemed a little small and petty, sort of like at the GOP debate where Rick Perry tried to bring up Mitt Romney’s gardening crew as to a reason that he has no credibility; bringing up that ESPN profits off of Lebron in the argument as to whether he’s the best player in the league or not makes your whole argument sort of weaker.

I don’t like Lebron James, I don’t want him to be number one.  But right now, I can’t put someone ahead of him without doing some serious soul searching.  Not so much soul searching but a lot of googling and a good bit of work on Basketball-Reference.com.

Andrew Barraclough is Senior Editor for RobertoGato.com, a Charlotte Bobcats Blog on the Fansided Network.  Follow him on Twitter @therobertogato and Like the site on Facebook.