Anarchy; Anarchy presently exists in an environment that is ripe for unrest and quick trigger ‘democracy.’ It has become the present state of the internet where sports are concerned and especially that of the future of LeBron James. It seems that everyone with access to the internet feels compelled to weigh in on the subject including an Inuit wearing mukluks blogging from his igloo in a northern Canadian province. (Despite this writer’s epicurean and elitist tendencies this issue is too potent not to write about.) Much has been made about James’ game five performance in the series with the Celtics. This showing bought the detractors raining down from the rafters to join the cavalcade of haters lined up simply waiting for one misstep from LeBron. He gave them one; they did not need much to set them into frenzy. One turnover is all it takes for them to attack his game with the ferocity of a lion protecting her cubs. James will always have cynics who are going to loathe him because they are blind to the beauty of the way he plays the game and resentful of the skill set he naturally possesses. These skeptics live for what happened in game five.
Immediately the reaction to and fallout from James’ lackluster game five performance was shock, disgust, panic, and a general air of ‘I told you so’-ness from those who do not believe that James deserves recognition at all. It was certainly not his best game but it was not the end of the world. Cleveland’s playoff aspirations were clearly hampered because of it but with the roster that the Cavaliers have they should have been able to be more competitive. Yet, because it was LeBron James the reaction, overreaction rather, was amplified one hundred fold. Who does LeBron think he is? What is wrong with the king? Has James given up? Is he done as a Cavalier? The media circus was running wild making a meager amount of questions concerning a player’s personal decisions about his future seem like Jeopardy. It was, and continues to be a childish showing by the media in a petty ratings grab. Boston eventually eliminated the Cavs in six games and that is when the sky fell. Anarchy broke loose on the internet as questions about this summer’s free agency abounded and the detractors made their single-mindedness known. Why do some people have such distaste for LeBron James? What has he done to personally offend them?
If you recall, you probably do not, LeBron James said that he would not guarantee a championship for the Cavaliers just before he entered the league. All he promised was that he would continue to get better and make the teammates around him better. Unquestionably, he has done just that. He is better than he was when he entered the league as a young eighteen year old fresh out of St. Vincent/St. Mary’s and has two consecutive MVP awards to show for it. The Cavaliers and their players are a better team because of LeBron James. He singlehandedly took his team to the NBA Finals. Jordan never did that, Kobe never did that. Players that surround James are better because of it. Mo Williams was a good player when he was on the Bucks but he was asked to do it all for them. Now he has a defined role with a player who can create and dish to when he is open. Antawn Jamison was a superb player with the Wizards and is still a top tier player; however, he was just not able to click in a shortened season with the Cavs after coming over in a trade. These are players who were previously well known though. Players such as Jamario Moon, Delonte West, Anthony Parker, and Daniel Gibson are better players now because of James. Hell, unless you are a basketball fanatic you probably do not remember that Moon and Parker played in Toronto or that Gibson went to the University of Texas or that West used to play for the Celtics and the Supersonics. LeBron gave them names. He gave them opportunities to excel. He has done exactly what he said he would.
This pedestal that the image, marketability, product, and personality that James sits upon is not one that he created. No, it was created by us, all of us. The media is especially to blame for anointing James the boy king who would propel the NBA to new heights and bring a championship to the beleaguered city of Cleveland. David Stern was quick to eat up the hype and promote the NBA’s newest and most marketable player. He later changed the admittance age of the league to nineteen but, honestly, he would still love for young players with superstar potential to join the league as quickly as possible. It is a business after all. James has been smart enough and savvy enough to cash in on the notoriety and celebrity that has been cast upon him since long before he joined the league. He sold t-shirts with his likeness on them at his high school games. As an NBA player he has various sponsorships and endorsements such as doing the Kid ‘N Play dance from House Party in a commercial. It cannot be said that he relishes all the attention, certainly now, that his natural abilities have given him but he definitely cannot escape it. (He seems to enjoy it at times though, but who would not? Celebrity is the new American dream.) The media and the fans will not allow him to escape the limelight. (As I write this I feel bad for doing so but it seems necessary because of his importance to the sport.) It must be remembered that we are the ones who singled him out, we proclaimed him the present and the future. We placed the target squarely on his back and the burden of champion on his shoulders. Nothing needed to be earned; we gave him everything on a silver platter for the taking.
That target and burden continue to grow and with it the detractors continue to climb aboard the negativity and hate bandwagon. LeBron cannot do it, he is not good enough, some king he is, where are LeBron’s rings, overrated, overhyped, baby, failure, choker, and not clutch are just a few of the words and phrases used by skeptics to describe his game. More simply than that people say that they just detest him, they hate him. They are jealous; to a man each one of them would love to have LeBron on their team. To hate LeBron James is to hate the game of basketball, period. Are there players in the league who are better than James? Yes, but that is debatable. Are there players in the league with more complete skill sets and more drive to win and compete than James? Yes. Are there players in the league with better natural gifts suited to play the game at the level which LeBron does? No, there is no one. James makes no excuses for who he is; people just want to say anything they can to bring him down because he is perceived to sit so high. How high does he really sit though?
The highest pinnacle of achievement in the NBA is to win a championship. Naysayers will be quick to point out that James does not have a championship to his credit. They are right. He does not; in fact most players do not have a championship to their credit. Only seven teams have won championships in the past twenty-five years. If you care to do the math that means that seven franchises have won the championship since LeBron James has been alive, seven teams have won championships since David Stern became commissioner. In fact the number of teams that have won has made the NBA disgustingly homogenous. There are thirty teams in the Association, thirty, yet only twenty-three percent of the teams have won it all this generation. Some say that a player’s greatness is defined by championships alone. Ok, so by that standard Nazr Mohammed, Antoine Walker, Jason Williams, Rick Fox, and Michael Finley are great players. Again, by the same standard that means that John Stockton, Karl Malone, Reggie Miller, Patrick Ewing, and Charles Barkley are not great players. Sound reasoning is it not? Championships may define the greatness of a season for a team but they have no basis in determining the greatness of an individual career alone no matter how badly great players want to win them.
James is a great player. There is no questioning that, none. To do so is to immediately render your points as biased tripe and pure folly. For such a young player, LeBron has established himself as one of the greats in league history. His numbers are simply astounding over the course of his seven years in the league. He has averaged 27.8 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists while shooting .475 from the floor. If he were to retire now he would end up in the Hall of Fame. Detractors will always find something negative to say about his game, they will focus on the tiniest of details and point to it as being the reason that he is not great and does not deserve the accolades which he receives. These critics must be borderline angelic because they could surely have no flaws themselves. No player is perfect. The attention that the detractors pay to James only serves to raise the created pedestal, which they seek to topple, even higher. Trajan should be so lucky.
Despite having come up short in his quest to return to the Finals, LeBron James is still a great player and the Cleveland Cavaliers are still a good team. James is certainly disappointed with the results and this summer has much more to mull about than usual. It would be unwise to speculate about the choices that he faces this off season as only James truly knows what is best for him. (We here at the Beef will, however, continue to keep you apprised if any relevant news concerning James’ future.) Because one player had one bad game in the playoffs the world ended and a foul taste was left in the mouth of those who already likened James to chewing on gristle. They are quick to forget that every player is prone to an off night. It happens. Hopefully, as time progresses and the remainder of the playoffs unfold, LeBron’s boo-birds will return to their nests letting the anarchy subside. LeBron James is not the problem in Cleveland. He never has been, yet he is the heart of the team and city and a heart can only be burdened by so much before it stops beating.