For the past three summers, the NBA's widespread fan and media base has been happy to proclaim that LeBron James is the game's best player.
The talks of "this will be the year that LeBron James surpasses Kobe Bryant" have become a recurring theme in the NBA. While those talks remain steady during the regular season, they are quickly forgotten when comparing Bryant's and James' postseason success.
When asking players, coaches, and GM's who the better player is; the unanimous answer is Kobe Bryant.
When asking experts, analysts, and writers (the media) the answer is usually LeBron James. Yes, there are some who choose Kobe, but generally speaking, the media tends to favor LeBron.
Example One: (The MVP Race)
In the 2009-10 campaign, the Cleveland Cavaliers swept the regular season series against the Los Angeles Lakers. Although the second game only took place in the middle of the regular season, much of the media was ready to cast their vote.
Last time I checked, the MVP went to a player who performed at a high level through the entirety of the regular season, not just during two marquee games. But sure enough, LeBron performed. The King played at a high level through the entire season, hell, he played at a higher level than the one which saw him win MVP the year prior.
But if two games meant so much to the MVP race, why don't we take it back a year, shall we?
For those who don't remember, during the 2008-09 season, the Los Angeles Lakers swept the Cleveland Cavaliers in the regular season match-up.
LeBron James shot a dismal 5-for-20 in Cleveland, but not before shooting 9-for-25 in Los Angeles.
Ready to do the math? That's a combined 14-for-45, which comes out to a not-so-sexy 31 percent. Oh yeah baby! MVP!
...and who ended up winning it? LeBron!
Don’t get me wrong, even if I wanted to vote against LeBron these past two years, I don't think that I could have. I don't think there has been a more deserving back-to-back MVP since Jordan.
The thing that doesn't make sense is that two regular season wins didn’t have much to do with the 2009 MVP voting criteria, but appeared to be vital in last year's.
Interesting thought, eh?
Example Two: (Supporting Cast)
Many believe that LeBron's inability to win a championship in Cleveland was because of a lacking supporting cast. While this statement could be proven true for LeBron's first three post-season's, that argument has long lost its validity.
The Cleveland Cavalier management did everything they could to get LeBron a good enough supporting cast, and despite contrary beliefs, I believe they achieved that goal in these last two years.
The first new face was Mo Williams, who in his first campaign with the Cavs found himself on the Eastern Conference All-Star team.
That year, the Cavaliers finished with the NBA's best overall record, but fell short in the Eastern Conference Finals to the hands of Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic.
So in comes Shaquille O' Neal.
The Diesel was coming off an All-Star season in Phoenix and was entering the last year of his contract.
The Cavs now had the Dwight Howard problem solved, but wanted to add a third scorer behind Mo Williams, and LeBron.
So in comes Antawn Jamison.
Prior to joining the Cavs, Jamison was averaging roughly 20 points and nine rebounds a contest.
And just when you thought the Cavs couldn't prove themselves as more worthy contenders, Anderson Varejao made his case for being the defensive player of the year, and J.J. Hickson made his case for being the league's most improved player.
Then again, the Cavs lost in the postseason, and despite Shaquille O'Neal and Antawn Jamison making a case for being All-Stars on their previous teams, it seemed as if they weren't playing to their potential in Cleveland.
What I have a problem with is this:
When the Cavs win, LeBron gets praised as if he's doing it alone. When they lose, the media blames his teammates.
When the Lakers lose, all fingers point to Kobe Bryant with the train of thought that he is incapable of winning. When they win, the general attitude is "his teammates carry him".
Funny how the media plants that seed in your head? You might not notice it, but they do.
In his first seven years in Cleveland, King James managed to reach the playoffs five times. Each time though, LeBron and the Cavaliers were knocked out by a different team.
During his stint in Cleveland, the Akron Hammer earned himself consecutive MVP awards, putting himself in a class with some of the NBA's elite.
For some, that's all the convincing they need to believe that LeBron is the NBA's premier player.
However, only after LeBron left Cleveland was the realization imminent to them. A player who had grown up under their own eyes, and was said to be "The Chosen One", left them without even a simple thank you. As great of a player that LeBron proved himself to be, the Cavaliers heard that the same old song play for seven years.
Final note: LeBron James may someday become one of the greatest players of all time; regardless to say, until he gets the hardware to back it up, Kobe Bryant will be known as the better player.
But then again...
Here we are, standing in the same position we've been in for the past three years. The NBA offseason is dwindling down, and the fans and media are again predicting that this is the year for LeBron.
After joining the Miami Heat, it's going to be tougher than ever to argue against him; though something tells me I'll be writing a similar article next year.
Take it easy, guys.