Lebron James: It’s Time to Appreciate

Photo by: Keith Allison

Here it is. A calling to fans in distaste for the “The King”, “the kid from Akron”, or LeBron James. Please do not close the link and consider that you watch sports for greatness right? Who wants to watch bad basketball all their lives? Take it from me, I HATED Lebron! Hate is a strong word depending on how you look at it. Every chance to see Lebron lose was like Christmas Day with an abundance of presents under the tree. Another Lebron failure was another win in my book. I know what you’re saying, however, there is no way you can persuade me. I’m sold he’s not worth a damn respecting!

I was a young teen attending Lebron’s first summer league game in the summer of 2003. It was the few times summer league was opened to the public in Orlando. The last game of the first night included the 18-year old kid from Akron, Ohio. Freshly drafted out of St. Vincent-St. Mary High School. Of course the hosting city, my Orlando Magic would be up against the number one pick. The Magic were debuting Rookie Reece Gaines out of Louisville whom they selected with the 15th pick in the 2003 draft.

Now mind you, I hardly believed in the hype of Lebron James. The buzz for this kid just was purely ridiculous. The arena cheered loudly for Lebron as he took the floor. There was a buzz for the other team which I took extreme distaste for since we’re talking about my hometown team not having much the frenzy. Right in front my face I witnessed the start of a career for Akron’s hero. Today, I now realize why the loud cheers in the summer of 2003 were all for James.

Lebron had a bad taste in my mouth since I felt like he caused a summer crowd in the then TD Waterhouse Centre to turn on their hometown team. Yes, I HATED this Lebron James. I rooted against James, even the point the Detroit Pistons became a team that needed to knock LeBron out of the playoffs in 2007.

In 2010, most of us may have disagreed with his “decision” show although proceeds went to a Boys and Girls Club charity it didn’t matter. Who did Lebron think he was important enough to have an announcement show to say where he’s headed next? To make matters worst a super team would form with the in-state rivals Miami Heat.

From a basketball standpoint given the opportunity, I believe we may have all made the choice James made. Why not? A President in Pat Riley who sold a dream but made two championships a reality. Yeah, so it wasn’t five, six or, seven but it was a span in the NBA where Lebron and his super team ruled for a short time. The Miami Heat made a Finals visit in each of the four years LeBron spent there. A record of 2-4 in the NBA Finals as James would repeat.

A good friend of mine says that Lebron James is the MOST scrutinized athlete that ever existed. I’ve slowly started to realize this as there is some sort of criticism in every way possible for Lebron. I get it, many see Michael Jordan is the God of basketball and it should not be questioned. For once can we look at the accomplishments and consider the kid from Akron, Ohio, ONE of the greats?

Here is a brief reminder of Lebron’s career awards.

 

  • 3× NBA champion (2012, 2013, 2016)
  • 3× NBA Finals MVP (2012, 2013, 2016)
  • 4× NBA Most Valuable Player (2009, 2010, 2012, 2013)
  • 13× NBA All-Star (2005–2017)
  • 2× NBA All-Star Game MVP (2006, 2008)
  • 11× All-NBA First Team (2006, 2008–2017)
  • 2× All-NBA Second Team (2005, 2007)
  • 5× NBA All-Defensive First Team (2009–2013)
  • NBA All-Defensive Second Team (2014)
  • NBA Rookie of the Year (2004)
  • NBA scoring champion (2008)
  • 2× AP Athlete of the Year (2013, 2016)
  • Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year (2012, 2016)
  • USA Basketball Male Athlete of the Year (2012)
  • 2× Mr. Basketball USA (2002, 2003)
  • Naismith Prep Player of the Year (2003)
  • McDonald’s All-American Game MVP (2003)
  • 3× Ohio Mr. Basketball (2001–2003)

By no means, I’d like to sell you on, “Hey LeBron James is better than Michael Jordan” today however if we consider Jordan as the great of all-time let’s measure James against him.

Courtesy of landofbasketball.com

Courtesy of landofbasketball.com

Here is a brief glimpse of LeBron James vs the Basketball God. As you can see there are many career totals that LeBron passes Jordan in. James has played in more playoffs games which has allowed him to finally pass Jordan in all-time scoring the playoffs. It is correct that if perhaps Jordan did not take a year off in 1993-1994 that he may still have the number one spot today.

Although LeBron James has taken fewer shots than Jordan we’ll keep it at that. This is a visual comparison to show you that you’re watching a player who is challenging the great Michael Jordan.

Where we can give Jordan the absolute edge is on the global impact he’s made across the world. A global icon and a face that everyone can recognize. Sure, the NBA has more marketability in other countries today, however, those may have no come forth if not without Jordan.

I know some of you are cringing and probably ready to click the exit button, but hold on!

I get it, but LeBron is a “flopper”, “crybaby”, “always travels”, or “trying to be like Mike”. You can’t flop or cry your way into passing Jordan in multiple categories. For the record, just this past week James admitted that it was “like Mike” he wanted to be.

“I wear the number because of Mike,” James said. “I think I fell in love with the game because of Mike, just because of what he was able to accomplish. When you’re watching Michael Jordan it’s almost like a god. So I didn’t think I could be Mike.”

This is about levels of appreciation although he may have beaten your team, draws in Jordan comparisons, or irks your last nerve.

“But LeBron rests, Jordan didn’t.”

Take this for data, from Owen Phillips at fivethirtyeight.com.

“Since entering the league in 2003, James has never sat out for more than 15 percent of a season (regular and playoffs combined). Among players of his caliber, past and present, that’s unprecedented. Stephen Curry had ankle issues at the start of his career; both Tim Duncan and Kobe Bryant experienced late-season injuries that forced them to miss the playoffs in, respectively, 2000 and 2013; and Michael Jordan broke his foot in his sophomore season. Then there’s James. He’s never missed a playoff game, and even though he has the sixth-most regular-season minutes of all time among players at the same point in their careers (within their first 14 years in the league), the most severe injuries he’s incurred are a sore back and knee and some untimely cramps.”

Are we really going to criticize a guy that took a couple of games off in the season? What about in the midst of current NBA Commissioner Adam Silver advising the schedule needs to accommodate more rest? Did you know that the 2017-2018 NBA Season will start early in October and the Preseason will be cut short for the resting accommodations in the schedule?

I interviewed a few Jordan fans this past week and asked them, “do you respect LeBron James more than you did 2-3 years ago?” One replied, “Always have, just don’t like him, like Kobe, don’t like him”. He later followed up and said, “he’s the best since MJ, they are both amazing, goats, but my old ass loves MJ”.

If you hate LeBron James, what was your reaction when he chased down Andre Iguodala’s layup in Game 7 of last year’s NBA Finals? “That’s goaltending!” Today, is there any appreciation that the man chased down a block that set-up a Kyrie Irving game winning shot? “He didn’t hit no basket, Kyrie won them that championship”. See, these are real actual responses from real life anti-Lebron folks.

Let’s also foolishly ignore the fact that LeBron James played in a league against Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Greg Popovich, the Golden State Warriors, all which are future Hall of Famers.

The excuses always will pour on for LeBron James and the data speaks otherwise. Trust me, I’ve tried to discredit LeBron many times and years in the making. It worked for a while especially all the way through the 2011 NBA Finals. All of a sudden it became a must difficult task to do as James’ career progressed.

If you made it this far I’d like to thank you personally. I believe that Jordan still holds the top spot but a close challenger is in his rearview mirror. The mind boggling part of this great debate is that 14 years ago who knew that I’d have a small bit of appreciation for LeBron James. I’m telling you all now, it’s ok to say, “yeah he’s pretty damn good and up there close to Michael”. I promise you will not melt nor be hell sent.

Sometimes, people, it doesn’t hurt to appreciate a little rather than express hate. Pass it on!

As James heads to his seventh straight NBA Finals next Thursday, he yet again joins an elite company with this accomplishment. If you’re as much of a hater or appreciate then, either way, you will be witnessing.

 

Chevall Kanhai
Baseline Times NBA Contributor
@BaselineChevy