By Eddie McDonald
LeBron James is the best basketball player on the planet today, he is arguably the most talked about athlete whether it’s on or off the court. He claims he is the “easiest target in all of sports” which is right on the money for the most part. There are two types of people when it comes to James; haters and lovers. Let’s begin with the haters.
No matter what James does, he is scrutinized or criticized. Even after he won his first NBA championship a couple seasons ago, he was ridiculed for joining Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the Miami Heat, despite losing the previous season with the same two big time players. He gets that ridicule from the aftermath of him leaving his hometown team, the Cleveland Cavaliers after seven seasons. People want to chastise him for leaving his hometown team and joining two other big time players. Let’s set the record straight; no player is winning a title on their own. Michael Jordan, for as great as he was, didn’t do it alone.
A lot of people want to ridicule James for how he announced his decision to leave Cleveland. Say what you will, but as the best player in the league, you have a right to do as you please. It might not have been the best way to go, but ask ESPN if they minded as the network aired the one hour special. Could he have went about that whole ordeal differently? Absolutely. However, he did not and thus ended up in South Beach.
On the court, James receives a ton of criticism for his passive style at times. If he passes the ball to a wide open teammate he either gets ridiculed for not taking the shot and his teammate missing or he gets the praise for making the right basketball play. It’s one or the other people. He often got criticized for “not doing enough” in terms of winning championships when he played for Cleveland, but did you see his team? That man did everything and then some for that team, but again, you can’t win a title alone or with no supporting cast.
When the “Big 3” formed in the summer of 2010, there were high expectations for championships (not one, not two, etc.) and rightfully so. In the first year of the Big 3’s inception, the Heat went to the NBA Finals, where they eventually lost to the Dallas Mavericks. James took a ton of criticism for his failure to perform in the fourth quarters of those games. He let the media and others get in his head, James was labeled as “mentally weak.” He devoted his whole offseason after losing to Dallas to get better and what a scary thought; the best player in the game getting even better.
The very next season James and the Heat were determined to get back to the Finals and win a championship. The end result was just that. James and company won the NBA championship, defeating the Oklahoma City Thunder. LeBron had finally won a championship. Some of the haters weren’t impressed, but really had nothing to say. Many still hung on to the Big 3 in general and how James went and teamed up with two other marquee players. Again, nobody is winning a title on their own.
The very next season James and the Heat stormed back to the NBA Finals for a matchup with the championship savvy San Antonio Spurs. This would end up being an epic series with a history-changing collapse. The Heat trailed the Spurs by 5 with 28 second a remaining in game 6, with the season on the line. San Antonio missed free throws down stretch and then one of the most clutch shots in the history of basketball happened. After James had missed a three point shot, Ray Allen found the ball in his hands on the rebound. He would then step back behind the three point line and knocked down the trifecta to eventually force overtime where the Heat went on to win and force a game seven. The Heat were victorious in the final game. James got ring number two, but people still wanted to talk nonsensical. Some people want to say that Ray Allen saved LeBron’s legacy with that shot. That talk needs to stop. His legacy would have been just fine, minus that championship. People criticized him for missing the three before Allen’s monumental triple. So what he missed a shot? His teammate made the ensuing shot thus giving him a chance to win another ring, which he did.
For all the haters who love to ridicule James, there are plenty of lovers who are quick to defend him. Everything James does is excellent in the eyes of his loyal fans. Sometimes those sentiments get carried away with nonsensical talk. Yes, he is the best player in the game today and the keyword in this sentence is “today.” He is great, but not the best ever. His fans will be quick to put him in the top three players of all time. While he has a great chance of being in that discussion, he isn’t there yet. That’s not a bad thing, it’s the truth.
LeBron has been compared to Michael Jordan since he came into the league. That’s not bad at all, until his fans get too carried away with it. James is great and will continue to prove that, but he nor anyone else can truly compare to Jordan. To break that down a little further, James is 2-3 in NBA Finals with two Finals MVPs. Jordan went to six Finals and won them all and took home MVP honors in all of them as well. That’s where the conversation needs to be looked at for any LeBron fan wanting to say James is better than Jordan.
Being the best player on the planet today does not mean the greatest of all time. Some fans don’t want to hear that, but it’s the truth. You can make the argument that James is a top 10 player right now at this stage in his career, but the very best? That’s a stretch even for James and his many accolades. If you want to put James in the top 10 conversation, that’s not unrealistic. It’s when you try and put him in the top five, three, or two that people need to realize he’s not there yet.
James opted out of his contract with the Heat, making him the most coveted free agent in the game. This does not mean he will leave South Beach, but it’s a possibility. James will sit down with the Heat and more importantly Wade and Bosh before being persuaded by the rest of the league. Whatever decision James makes, let him make it. The haters will still have something to say no matter where James lands. Some will question his legacy if he joins a new team or goes back to Cleveland. Some will still be all over him for joining Wade and Bosh and that really needs to be put to rest. That move is over and done with and it’s time to get over it. His fan base will follow him no matter where he goes, if anywhere. If he does indeed leave the Heat, many will claim his new team is their favorite team now. It’s one thing to like a player, but if you are a fan of a team, be a fan of that team while rooting for other players.
It’s almost as if James is in a no-win situation with the fans. Some will constantly hate on him while others will constantly praise him. At the end of the day, James will still be the best player on the planet regardless of where he plays next season.