For all the hatred and criticism LeBron James has received in the last two-and-a-half years, there is no denying his greatness.
I was at a bar last night watching the Miami Heat-Los Angeles Lakers showdown and some sloppy, drunk guy, who claimed he was a die-hard Lakers fan from Chicago, swore that LeBron James was "the worst person he'd seen in the clutch in his 20 years of watching basketball."
He went on to say that despite James winning his first ring last year, the King's greatness is still not justified because he didn't do it by himself and he employed the help of Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to get the job done.
I tried offering fair, logical and unbiased points on why LeBron is great and why his 2012 playoff performance certainly ranks amongst the greatest all-time performances in NBA history, but this guy wasn't having it.
I realized there was no reason to fuel the fire, and that one fact remains: LeBron James is both great and reviled; he is a player whom all NBA fans want to watch when they tune into a basketball contest.
The fact is that people need someone to pinpoint as the bad guy, and they need that villain to root against. Whether it's holding onto the twilight years of Kobe Bryant's legacy, or being simply tired of all of James' media praise, people have become so engrossed in putting down James that they're not even sure why they're doing it anymore.
Maybe James greatness has become boring because were so used to seeing his astronomical nightly numbers that we no longer think it's special. ESPN's Tom Haberstroh argues this very point, contending we don't care about LeBron's MVP numbers anymore because they've become pretty much a guarantee over the past decade.
Contrary to that premise, LeBron James greatness is everything NBA fans want.
Where Would the NBA be Without LeBron?
Go ahead and hate LeBron James for teaming up with two superstars. Hate him for tossing aside the city that drafted him and made him. Think less of him for making an arrogant, one-hour special to announce his next destination.
But, don't try to act like his free-agent decision to join a different team somehow minimizes his once-in-a-generation ability.
This is a guy whose stats have only become better since joining forces with two other perennial All-Stars. He has developed a post game and, so far this season, posted career bests in field goal and three-point percentage. His rebounding numbers this season also happen to the best of his 10-year career. His numbers have actually improved since James joined two other players who could have realistically hampered his statistics.
James has bettered his field goal percentage every season since he was 22—that's seven straight seasons of improvement.
My case for showing James the utmost respect is the sheer fact of how much dedication and work he has put into perfecting his craft. It's not like James is called the King because he's a flashy dunker and displays arguably the best athletic prowess the league has ever seen.
No, this is a guy that has perfected his well-roundedness over the years.
He wasn't a great mid-range or perimeter shooter early in his career. Now, he's shooting a career-high 55 percent from the field and a career-best 40 percent from beyond the arc.
He's greatly progressed in his rebounding skills, his inside game, his on-court vision, his foot work and his defense.
Look, I get it. LeBron James comes off as one of the most egotistical and arrogant superstars the world of sports has ever seen (off the court). He spit on his hometown, he's made downright abrasive comments in the past (namely his 2011 Finals post-game press conference) and he's lost a lot of fans.
But, his on-court greatness is something truly remarkable.
Every NBA fan wants a physical specimen like LeBron. His unique blend of power, speed and athleticism is amazing and one of a kind.
If you like a player who scores in bunches both on the perimeter and through exciting driving, LeBron is your guy. If you're a fan of a player who has great court vision and is an excellent facilitator, LeBron is your man. If you like a player who can deliver highlight reel plays with explosive dunks and unreal athletic displays, LeBron is your guy.
If you like a guy who can play stellar defense against almost any player in the league, then LeBron is your guy. If you like a team player who is unselfish, then No. 6 is your man.
The point is that James is the total package. He can deliver on both ends of the court and does so in such a dynamic fashion. If you can't appreciate James' versatility and his ability to improve each and every year he's been around, then you don't appreciate basketball.
This isn't about championships or how you are able to attain them. This is about appreciating true greatness when you see it.
We are not bored of LeBron's greatness because we still talk about it. We still marvel over what he does on the court on such a scarily consistent basis because we all yearn for it.
Love him or hate him, LeBron James' greatness is not only good for the NBA, but it's everything fans want and hope for when they watch a game.
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