RIGHT BETWEEN THE “O” AND THE “S”

I cannot be characterized as a LeBron James “fanatic”, but I do appreciate him as a great player. (arguably the best player in the NBA) If you look at what he does on the court, and you can’t appreciate it, I have to question your love of the game. After seeing him fail and face criticism for 8 seasons, I told myself that this season I would root for him to win it all. While I have gone back on that promise, I still appreciate what he has been to the league.

If I had to create a list of the All-time best NBA players in history, I would not even have LeBron James in my Top 15, but I realized something interesting about him. While there may many in history and present NBA that are considered better players, NONE have faced the same criticism as he has. NONE. Not Bird, not Magic, not Jordan, not Shaq, Kobe, Wade, Durant, no one. After every game LeBron has played in his young career, win or lose, he faces criticism for every decision he makes over 48 minutes. (and especially the last 5 minutes of each game) If he misses key shots at the end of a game, he’s torched by the media. If LeBron passes up key shots at the end of the game, no matter if the receiving teammate hits the shot or not, he is criticized for not taking the shot himself. If he isn’t chasing a ball down every single possession, or not crashing the boards on every attempted shot, he was too passive. I could use this opportunity to list why I think he is held under such a critical microscope, but instead I want to play a game of “WHAT IF?”.

WHAT IF LeBron James had played like Lakers guard Kobe Bryant did in Game 2 of the Lakers-Oklahoma series? Kobe went 9-25 in shooting attempts, and single-handedly gave the Thunder the game in the last 2 minutes. Kobe launched up three unneeded shots, and had two key turnovers that helped OKC steal the game. In his post game interviews he was given a “free pass” by smirking, laughing, shrugging his shoulders, and changing the conversation to Game 3. Would LeBron have gotten off that easy?

WHAT IF LeBron James had played like his teammate Dwayne Wade did in their Game 3 loss to the Indiana Pacers? Wade had 5 POINTS on 2-13 shooting Thursday night. That in itself is embarrassing for a player of his caliber. The Miami Heat team was -25 with him on the floor. Not to mention, he showed more passion and fight against his own head coach than he did against the Pacers team. If LeBron ever posted a 5 point game, with 5 turnovers, a 19-point beating, and 1 fight with his coach, we would have to rename every sports network LJSPN, (LeBron James Sports Network) because we would be talking about him until halftime of his next game.

Considering the fact that Clipper’s guard Chris Paul, New York’s Carmelo Anthony, Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant, and many other of the top rated stars are still without their first Championship title, it’s clear that many of them have fallen short when it matters. What makes LeBron any different? What makes his every move a storyline?

It’s become quite clear that until he wins the ultimate prize, he will have to second-guess every move he makes on and off the court. Is it fair? No. Is it deserved? Maybe. But can you convince me that it’s deserved over many of the other stars that we have witnessed over the years? Never.

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