LeBron James, Or How I Learned To Stop Hating and Embrace The King
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So you're probably getting wind of LeBron's Q-rating taking a George W. Bush-esque fall from grace (remember, Dubya had a Gallup Poll approval rating higher than 90% following 9/11).
Everyone, their mom, and Mark Cuban is taking shots at LeBron, but it's important to note that LeBron's attitude has remained virtually the same his entire career.
I was just as disappointed in LeBron's "Decision" as the next guy, if not more. You might remember that I wrote various inflammatory comments toward him following the debacle.
Over this summer, after having been equally disgusted with the annual Favre-fest about a month ago, I came to a realization.
Who am I to judge LeBron? LeBron's move might have been gutless to people of Cleveland, or anyone who has so much a tinge of hometown loyalty.
But does your loyalty make you morally superior to the degree that you can judge a man for being human?
It's not like this came as a surprise to any of us: LeBron's attitude problems and his alleged childishness have been swept under the rug until it reared its ugly head this summer with "The Decision." Is that any reason to disrespect, him, though?
On the basketball court, LeBron's accomplishments still stand. He dragged co-captain Eric Snow and flunkies like Larry Hughes and Boobie Gibson to the 2007 NBA Finals.
They got swept, but you can't deny that LeBron's presence made everyone else's game better.
Of last year's statistics, the 2009-2010 Cleveland Cavaliers can be defined with three offensive stats: their pace factor (approximation of possessions per 48 minutes) was 91.4 (good for 25th in the league), but they scored 102 points a game (good for 6th in the league).
Every possession on offense counted, as evidenced by their 48.5% team FG percentage (good for third in the league).
LeBron came into the league as one of the most highly-touted talents in history. He received ESPN coverage at his high school games, received a $90 million Nike contract, and was thrown in a position to be forced to make an impact right away.
In the face of these expectations, he averaged a 20-5-5 his rookie year. He led his team to the NBA Finals in his fourth season in the league, highlighted by a 48-point performance in the Eastern Conference Finals where he scored all of his team's last 25 points to turn the tide of the series. He's a two-time NBA MVP.
Let me tell you right now, the only expectations that LeBron HASN'T met is winning a ring. Now he's about to do it the only way he knows how; by teaming up with teammates that can not only make him confident in his ability to win a ring, but with teammates who can virtually guarantee it.
As someone who has faced great expectations as a child (and has obviously failed to meet them), I empathize-- when you're expected to be the best, being the best is made that much more difficult. The pressure, the constant attention, and most of all, the simple joylessness of achieving those expectations almost makes it not worth it.
It takes passion and talent beyond what the world-at-large perceives to motivate yourself. Despite this, LeBron James has managed to pave a successful NBA career ahead of him. He lived up to the hype, and now we're dragging him down for his self-celebratory attitude?
LeBron knew full well that Cleveland would not have been able to add enough talent to take him to the promised land. What LeBron needed was a post-presence and a second-scoring option.
Antawn Jamison didn't pan out, not because he wasn't talented, but because of a clash in playing styles. Jamison's game wasn't a good fit for all the off-the-ball movement required of Mike Brown's offense.
LeBron may be at fault for breaking the hearts of many Cleveland fans, but one thing we cannot take away from him is that he is one of the best players in the game today.
We can't take away from him that he refused to crumble in the face of great expectations...as a wide-eyed 19-year-old from Akron, no less.
Now? He willingly shares the spotlight with Dwyane Wade, considered to be one of his biggest rivals. He defers and steps back.
Isn't it only fitting that, in a team game like basketball, that the league's Most Valuable Player would make a move that creates one of the most feared teams in the NBA?
LeBron may have made a self-celebratory move after seven truly awe-inspiring seasons, but make no bones about it, you only go so far as a basketball player as the players around you.
LeBron James understood this. He has surrounded himself with not just any staff, but a staff of players that, if they click, can dominate the league for the first true NBA Dynasty since the Jordan era.
LeBron James made a fateful "Decision" that night that children can look up to one day: that basketball is a team game, and that individual glory and success mean nothing compared to the ultimate prize.
Here's to watching LeBron defy expectations, for once.
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