During the Clipper game on Sunday, LeBron James had a fast break opportunity coming in from the wing. He received the pass and with nobody in the area to defend, LeBron gently laid the ball in off the glass for two points. Two quiet points.
Those fast breaks points, especially when the Miami Heat were playing on their home floor, are meant for dazzling dunks and highlight hoops. But all there was to see was a classic layup, the kind so fundamental a coach would model it when teaching a group of youngsters.
What does this mean?
Your first thought might be skepticism, I understand. You might be cringing at me with a raised brow wondering, “Why is this an issue?”
Here’s why: LeBron’s layup represented, pictured, and embodied what I have been thinking for a while now.
LeBron James meant it when he said he went to Miami to win championships. He even used words like “business” and “multiple” in a serious manner in the same breath. For example: “I’m about business. And we believe we can win multiple championships."
That seems to be what the layup entails to me. This man, right now, is like Ice Man in the famously time-honored man movie, Top Gun. LeBron is staring a set of rings in the face, donning a cold hard stare, willing to tactically pick every team apart, wearing them down in the process. Cold as ice, never veering, just like Val Kilmer’s character.
This is an opinion piece, so I realize many may say, “It’s obvious what he wants: championships—duh.”
But that’s not merely what the layup portrays. What it does is create a metaphor. It’s not just that he’s going for the trophy, or seven of them. It’s how he is doing it.
Not flashy. Not showy. Just with efficiency.
The layup means he is not going to expend any undue energy. Remember: it’s business.
The layup means he has skillfully observed his own team to figure how his talents (I use that word as a pun since he notoriously made that word a mockery) can best get this top heavy team to the Finals.
But look at it this way. The Heat began on a sour note, appearing to be confused and out of sorts on the court the first handful of games. Then something happened.
They continued to get better. And better. And better.
It seems both he and Dwayne Wade have been casting lots in the locker room before a game and then taking turns many nights deciding who is going to finish with the most points. Both are lethal scorers, and both are doing what they do i.e. scoring.
What this does is make everyone around them better and balanced, since their roles are being fleshed out more and more.
As for the "Dear Kobe and NBA Fans” headline, what I mean by that is that LeBron is making good on his chosen description of his current team, “It’s business."
It’s not emotional. It’s not personal. It’s purely performance-based and results-orientated. This is dangerous for Kobe and NBA fans. What LeBron envisions is an NBA takeover, and it just might be possible.
His approach is so sterile at times that one can only see that LeBron truly is making his ambition and vision practical. When a man’s internal dream starts to work out in everyday life, it usually means success.
The only kind LeBron wants is in the form of NBA banners and rings.
True, he still has the Eastern Conference to get through. And, I must note, I am not a huge LeBron fan. With all this said, I can also say I am not blind. I can see the Heat developing and LeBron, like a potter, adjusting and shifting his hands over the clay to shape it to an unstoppable weapon.
His role, he has figured, is not to be King LeBron right now. It’s to be a student of the game and an evaluator each night, dissecting every component of his team, figuring, “How can I make us better?”
So far, it’s working.
In part, this is what Kobe is still trying to master (not to say LeBron has mastered anything yet, mind you). When he does, the Lakers win as a team. The big men get involved early, the offense flows, the Lakers win. But when Kobe tries to takeover a game, abandoning his role and making it about King Kobe, or the Black Mamba, often times the Lakers lose. Yes. Agreed. It’s not always his fault. There is a lot of standing around and terrible play from the others, which warrants Kobe’s self-assertion. Still, the statistics speak for themselves. The Lakers have lost more games than won this year when Kobe has over 40 points.
For Kobe and the Lakers, Bryant’s going off is not the most effective way to win. Neither is it for the Heat. Which is why LeBron doesn’t have 51 or so each game.
We all know Bryant is a critic of the game and his team. We know that Kobe has been doing—especially these past years—what LeBron is currently, which is to become judicious in their approach to basketball. Both study their team and decide what they can do, on the court, to enhance performance to achieve optimal results. But, scarily, LeBron is more effective at doing this right now, and he has shown himself to be competent enough to do this in a short amount of time. Surprising? So far, yes. I didn’t know he had it in him.
The season is far from over. However, if LeBron keeps this up, that championship many predicted a year or two off may just be at hand.
I know, I know: it was just a layup.
Well, again, I am not someone who is, in the least, a LeBron crony; but I can see the obvious, or, should I say, the not yet so obvious.
Furthermore, I am still loyal to the beginning of the season’s predictions, when the L.A/Miami showdown was the talk. This is still the premier series matchup. Don’t let anyone fool you. When it’s all said and done, these two commanders—Kobe and LeBron—will meet on the court in the Finals.