With 2008 coming to an end one can't escape the inevitable year-in-review lists that make an appearance in sports pages around the country this time of year. I recently stumbled upon one that pondered the over-hyped/over-exposed athletes of the day.
As I scanned the list I was not surprised to find Lebron James' name missing. Now I know that he has been deified by the media and, to his credit, his team is doing quite well. However, if there is a more prematurely over-hyped athlete in the world of today's NBA I have yet to see him.
Mr. James has gotten so big, in fact, that the New York Knicks, a team that plays its home games in a building ridiculously referred to as the 'Mecca of Basketball' (there's been at most a hand-full of meaningful games played there in the last 40 years) have all but sacrificed their next two seasons for the opportunity to lure the man-child to their camp. With this in mind, and fully aware of the possible ramifications of espousing such an unpopular view, I offer up for consideration one Mr. Lebron James to the list of over-hyped athletes of 2008.
I know, I know, Mr. James ... I mean 'The King' ... er 'King James' puts up great numbers and he is unquestionably a beast. However, I am old-school, and the more I hear that he is perhaps the greatest basketball player who has ever lived, the more I am convinced that he is the most prematurely crowned King in the history of the Republic ... or at least the NBA.
There used to be a time when you had to actually win something ... had to have made a huge shot in a huge game, to merit this type of adulation. It would also help the argument if the player in question had at least developed a "go-to" move and/or a dependable jump-shot.
I remember a time when the great Michael Jordan, who had skills and artistry the present-day Lebron can only dream of, was touted as nothing more than a lovable loser ... just a member of "Michael and the Jordanaires" ... no more ... no less.
It wasn't until Larry, Magic, and Kareem stepped aside and he had a few championships under his belt that people began to realize that what they were witnessing was indeed special. Magic's fame came about after playing all five positions in the NBA Finals and leading his under-manned Laker team to a title against a heavily favored 76er team loaded with all-stars ... and future Hall of Famers ...on the road...as a freakin' rookie no less!
It would be foolish to suggest that Lebron can't one day reach that rarefied level. He appears to posses the physical gifts necessary to secure himself a place amongst the all-time greats. However, it takes much more than physical gifts (and media hyperbole) to climb to the top of the mountain. One must also posses a burning desire, determination and work-ethic worthy of such accolades.
It wouldn't hurt to develop a flair for the dramatic ... the ability to win when all is against you ... and most importantly, the character to rise above the competition and demand the spotlight because your play, and the success of your team, just made the conversation unnecessary.
Until that day happens, I'll gladly distance myself from the ridiculously premature perception and unchallenged hyperbole ... no matter what the professional sportswriters and other NBA "experts" tell me. Now go out and have yourself the Happiest New Year Ever.