LeBron James probably the most recognizable athletes in the world is a household name, a global icon with fan following ranging from China in the east to obviously USA in the west. LeBron has carried the league being that “Megastar”, the best player for over ten years. What’s rather sad, is that his legacy as an all-time great, if the not ‘the greatest’, is primarily a consequence of the intense, unforgiving media scrutiny and crucifixion of his public image. A phenomenon that been ongoing since the day he stepped onto the NBA court. One can say he brought it upon himself by choosing the number 23 and copying a familiar pre-game ritual, explicitly revealing his ambitions to emulate the legendary Michael Jordan.
He certainly faced lows with the biggest one coming against the Dallas Mavericks in the 2011 NBA finals. Lebron was unable to crack Dallas’ stiff defensive efforts. The Mavericks had a great game plan that restricted the number of shots James took. Going up against Tyson Chandler in the paint, a combination of bad plays and him “shrinking in the fourth” saw him hit his “low”. This, of course, drew comparisons to Michael Jordan, who didn’t leave the team that drafted him to form his own super team in another market only to fall short to a team that had one All NBA player at the time and no all-stars. James did redeem himself time and again since then and also had his moments of glory before this. He took a no-name Cavaliers team to the NBA finals by defeating the fabled Detroit Pistons that was known for its defense in the early 2000’s up until 2008. He produced an all-time performance scoring the last 29 of 30 points for Cleveland. He also made the game-winning layup in a double-overtime win in Game 5. After that game, play-by-play announcer Marv Albert called the performance “one of the greatest moments in postseason history”, whilst commentator Steve Kerr described it as “Jordan-esque”.
The moment to look for is at the 1-minute mark.
Below is the original, Michael Jordan over rather ironically Cleveland’s Craig Ehlo.
This is fast forward a 11 years from the 2007 playoffs. Carmelo Anthony from the same class looks washed at Oklahoma, Dwayne Wade is doing bench duties for the Miami Heat. No one remains from that class barring the King- at the peak of his powers and one can arguably say, this is the best he has ever been since his first title with the Heat. He is smarter, added the 3-point shot, makes smarter plays by having more driving lanes beyond the arc, thereby spreading the floor even before the juggling at the arc. But above all of those is a defining quality witnessed in all those, who are in the debate for “GOAT”, its consistency and longevity.
LeBron James knows when to conserve his energy; when to make plays and factors all of it in each and every on-court decision he makes. The modern-day game is more intense than it was in the Jordan Era. In terms of stats, Lebron rivals and in many cases supersedes the performances of Tim Duncan and Kobe Bryant. Although his defensive ability has subsided, everything else and it cannot be emphasized enough. He embodies the best qualities of Magic Johnson and more.
One thing is for sure, we will weep when he finally calls it a day, as he has truly impacted the modern-day game in an unprecedented way.