Has the Dominance of LeBron James Become Boring?
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But have we become immune to his dominance of the league?
His passing abilities are glamorous, but not in the way Magic Johnson added such flair.
His dunking is powerful and lively, but not in the you've-gotta-see-this, YouTube-clicking ways of Blake Griffin.
His collection of clutch moments is not yet built—especially in the manner of Michael Jordan.
James has the ability to take over a game in a quieter style, as loud as his statistics may be. He bulls himself to the basket with such ease that it can be seen as vanilla.
Still, his ever-changing role as the game's greatest player will never become boring.
He's too entertaining—on and off the court—to be boring. It's too diverse of a routine.
His story lines will always prove interesting, just as they always have. In fact, he's been Mr. Story Line. The narrative of his still-early career is far from boring.
Here's the visual evidence:
LeBron was introduced to the masses at just 17 years old.
In a 2002 Sports Illustrated article by Grant Wahl, James is seen as a teenager who is shaking hands with Michael Jordan in the tunnel of Cleveland's Gund Arena.
It's 10 p.m. on the last night of January, and the moment feels charged, even a little historic. Remember that photograph of a teenaged Bill Clinton meeting JFK? Same vibe. Here, together, are His Airness and King James, the 38-year-old master and the 17-year-old prodigy, the best of all time and the high school junior whom some people—from drooling NBA general managers to warring shoe company execs to awestruck fans—believe could be the Air Apparent.
As a sophomore, James gained early attention. Pay attention at the 45-second mark of this clip, when the reporter talks about how effortless James makes the game look. As the best player in the NBA, little has changed.
It was just a few years later that James landed as an instant superstar in Cleveland. He lit up the league as Rookie of the Year with quick passing, powerful one-handed dunks and step-back pull-ups.
There was little James couldn't do in his first season, and the Cavaliers improved from 17 wins in 2002-03 to 35 wins in his rookie year.
Nothing was boring about the electric celebrity basketball player by the time he was 20.
Oscar Robertson wrote in 2005 for Time Magazine:
It won't be easy living up to the hopes. While his talent has already established James, at age 20, as a bona fide star, he will need to be noncontroversial and politically correct, something even Michael Jordan took a while to learn. But in one respect, James could become even more influential than Jordan was. With so many players coming into the NBA fundamentally deficient, James' solid all-around skills can have a positive influence on kids and how they play the game. His improvement between his first and what is now his second season showed dedication and a desire to improve.
James played two seasons in Cleveland before turning around the Cavaliers. In his third season (2005-06), he took the franchise to its first playoff series victory since 1993. That same season, he won the Most Valuable Player award at the All-Star Game.
Nothing was dull about James in Cleveland. He was magnificent and stirring; he was magnetic.
James led the Cavaliers to the NBA Finals in 2006-07 and lost to the Spurs. After failing to make the Eastern Conference Finals in 2008, James won his first league MVP award in 2008-09, but lost to the Orlando Magic in the conference finals.
Suddenly, James wasn't a winner—despite the five consecutive seasons of playoff runs.
James got caught up in plenty of coach drama with Mike Brown.
There was talk that James helped usher his coach out of Cleveland, and James was not happy with management's ability to surround him with talent.
It was on July 8, 2010, that James completed the greatest villain move of this era:
As a result, Cleveland got weird and did this:
There was no instant success, and there was plenty of drama in his first regular season. James pulled the ol' "oh, I didn't see you there" routine with his coach again:
Following the finals defeat, James then demeaned his detractors, becoming an even greater villain:
Suddenly, James and the Heat became a laughing stock despite nearly immediate success in Miami. Fans wanted to see the bad guy lose.
But the laughing didn't last long.
James capped his third regular-season MVP award and went off in the 2012 playoffs on his way to his first championship.
James averaged 28.6 points, 10.2 rebounds and 7.4 assists in the five-game series, capping a postseason of 30.3 points, 9.7 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game.
That's pure domination.
He's at it again, a favorite for the MVP with the Eastern Conference's top team. James is succeeding with a humble attitude, killing his haters with kindness.
That destroys a nation of hyper-critics that loves drama; the reasons to disgrace James have faded.
That's perhaps why he might be considered boring.
But do you think that's going to stop?
James is still the most polarizing player in the game with plenty of years ahead of him. He's already second in story lines behind Kobe Bryant.
He may never be Jordan, but he might finish with more interesting narratives in an age of hyper-media attention.
Follow @jimmypspencer on Twitter for NBA news and analysis.
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