LeBron James: An Unstoppable Force

Beyond the Arc BasketballContributor IMay 16, 2009

ATLANTA - MAY 11:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers walks on the court during a free throw against the Atlanta Hawks during Game Four of the Eastern Conference Semifinals during the 2009 NBA Playoffs at Philips Arena on May 11, 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

You may of heard about him before. He's a 6'9'', 280 pound man-child that might be the most unique small-forward to ever play the game of basketball. Two months ago he went into Staples Center and let Kobe and the Lakers control him and his team, easily defeating them.

The LeBron/Kobe matchup was a blast to watch, but the game itself really showed that basketball is a team game, and the other four players on the court are just as important and essentially win the game for you.

The next day an article out of the Bay Area (Golden State Warriors land) stirred up some discussion. Legend Rick Barry was quoted in his observation of LeBron:

  • Zinger from the Bay: In anticipation of James' annual stop in the Bay Area on Friday, Golden State Warriors great Rick Barry is greeting the Cavs' star with a zinger. In an interview with Comcast SportsNet Bay Area that will air tonight, Barry said he's alarmed James hasn't fixed some areas of his game and also sends one across the bow of the Cavs' coaching staff.
  • "He's got major flaws in his game," Barry said. "He's six years into the NBA. How can a man six years into the NBA with his talent have a major flaw in his shot? How can he not use screens effectively? . . . I watch the game very carefully, he doesn't use screens effectively and this is not LeBron's fault. It's the fault of the people who are teaching him. . . . there is no doubt in my mind that LeBron, if shown these things would do them, because he wants to be a great player, he wants to win a championship. As great as he is, he should be better.

Rick Barry might be right. LeBron's jumper isn't what you would call fundamentally sound exactly (too much arm/elbow involved). He has quite a few "flaws" in his game, just like any other player in the game.

The thing is, we tend to just overlook any missing aspects of his game because he is such an explosive and unique player.

While the casual fan will usually use the argument that LeBron's only weakness is his jumper, well, I tend to nit-pick and go a little deeper. What stands out the most for me (aside from his suspect jumper), would be his lack of developing a post-up game.

Many of us forget LeBron has been in the league for over five years now; this is his sixth season. You think in five-plus years he would develop some type of back-to-the-basket game, right? All the greats like Jordan and Kobe had such a wide array of moves. Jordan's baseline post-up fadeaway was such an unstoppable shot.

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Kobe's mid-post game is nearly perfect; his foot-work is flawless, and his shot effective. So why don't we ever see LeBron posting up? With his height he could easily post-up anyone in the mid-range effectively, and with his size/strength he could be very successful on the low-block utilizing an up-and-under or other relatively fundamental post moves.

I know I am nit-picking here, but after five years you think his game would expand a little more than it has.

This doesn't take away all the improvements he has made, not at all. He turned a really inconsistent jumper into a pretty reliable one, albeit a streaky one. He has improved his passing and rebounding respectively. Even this year he came in with an improved defensive mindset and leadership.

But I still think he leaves so much more to be wanted. You look at his stats: since his second season the kid has really been the exact same in every year; a 30-point per game scorer, and a guy that can give you 7 assists and 7 rebounds, as well as close to two steals and a block.

He isn't really blocking any more shots or getting any more steals than the rest of his career; it's just the media telling us he has become this unstoppable defensive force.

Of course, Rick Barry and myself could be entirely wrong. James has made steps every year, albeit not major, and at the age of 24 who's to say he doesn't develop an all around game without a weakness by 28? I just hope he does, for the sake of the sport and his own career.

He is a player that depends on pure athleticism so greatly; towards the latter parts of his career as he hits 30, well, I guess my question is really how will he maintain the kind of level he is at? When he can't run and jump twice as fast and high as every other guy, how can he stay this effective?

Players like Jordan and Kobe had/have very reliable jumpers, in combination with a post-up game, exquisite footwork, and other seamless fundamentals that allow them to score without jumping out of the roof. What's LeBron going to do?

All the discussion created by Rick Barry in the Bay Area(Golden State Warriors country) about Lebron's weak jumper stirred up some heated conversation. Guess what? A few nights later LeBron James had his answer for Rick Barry, and all of us overly skeptical fans...but why bother using words when you are LeBron James?


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