Category Archives: ’10 – ’11 Season

Alas, my friends.  The time has come to put a bow on Season 2 of hoopservations.com .  Hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as I have.

In closing, I think it’s appropriate to wrap up the LeBron conversation.  Assuming we have a basketball season to talk about in October, people’s opinions and perspectives on what we just WITNESSED are likely to change.  Now that the discussion is fresh, let’s do some year-end hoopserving about it.

My five-part rant generated a few comments about King James, disagreeing with my conclusions.  I’ll take them in turn:

COMMENT:  Did Magic play with Kareem and Worthy? Didn’t Clyde Drexler and some others team up with Hakeem to win? Also didn’t Malone and Payton team up with Shaq and Kobe to win a championship? Shaq played with Kobe (arguably both could be considered in the top 5 to ever play the game). Jordan and Pippen were nominated in the 50 best players ever and Jordan is arguably the best to ever play. For all the hate that everyone has against Lebron for choosing who he works with, it sums up to jealousy. Last night Van Gundy stated this and he made a great point.

RESPONSE:  We’ll start with Magic.  I’ve already blogged about this.  He won his first championship when Kareem was injured.  By the time he won the last one, Kareem was washed up.  Magic had won two before Worthy even joined the team.  In any event, it’s not like he spent 7 years failing to win with his own team and then ran to join a team with Kareem and Worthy.

Re Drexler, it’s true that he didn’t win until he joined Hakeem.  It’s also true that nobody talks about him as a top-15 player.  If you want to agree not to rank LeBron ahead of Drexler, I’ll agree that the situations are comparable.  The problem is that LeBron gets much more credit than Drexler, without credentials to warrant it.

Re Malone and Payton, yes they both joined the Lakers when they were old, after having spent their careers failing to reach the promised land.  It was lame of them.  And it didn’t work.  They still failed to win.  And nobody puts them in the top 15.  (Simmons ranked Malone #18, and Payton #40.  I’m assuming that Simmons would have to acknowledge that Wade and Dirk have both moved ahead of Malone since he published his book.)

Re Shaq and Kobe, now you’re just being silly.  The year before Shaq joined the Lakers was 95-96.  (Shaq’s stats here.)  Kobe wasn’t even in the league that year.  (Kobe’s stats here.)  So Shaq leaving Orlando for LA is not at all comparable to LeBron leaving Cleveland for Miami: one guy quit on his team to join a team that already had an established superstar, and one guy did not.

Re Jordan and Pippen… ah, I’m not gonna go there.  Already done that.

Re “it sums up to jealousy,” now you’re not even making sense.  I’m fat, slow, and can’t jump.  As a result, I’m jealous of all the guys in the NBA.  Even Brian Cardinal.  Hell, I’m jealous of some dude named Tim whom I met at the park, because he was able to complete a reverse lay-up without twisting his ankle.  There’s a reason why LeBron is the source of my anger, and it has nothing to do with jealousy.

COMMENT:  Lebron should be applauded and emulated. Lets look at some of the positives he has done verse others in our beloved sport – he actively sought out Warren Buffet. He took the power of making his professional life more fulfilling. Don’t we all do this when we search for a new job or career?

RESPONSE:  I don’t follow the Warren Buffet thing.  Regarding the idea of “we all do this,” it’s true that we all try to make our lives as fulfilling as possible.  It’s also true that we aren’t all in the discussion for being one of the top 15 basketball players of all time.  Thus, if I go to work for an established organization, it’s probably because I want to make a few more bucks or have a bit more job security — not because I’ve taken the easy way out on the quest for greatness.

COMMENT:  He has two kids with the same woman and has never been accused of negative or illegal activities. So far he has embraced being a role model. He plays team first basketball – what he loves passing – the horror. He loves playing defense – don’t follow that habit.

RESPONSE:  I have one kid with the same woman, and have embraced being a role model.  I’m still not in the conversation for top 15 basketball players of all time.  Bruce Bowen loved playing defense.  He isn’t, either.

COMMENT:  I hope Lebron wins, dances, and then Miami throws a party even more out there then their intro party. When this happens you will see me in the middle of it. Don’t hate because our game is captivating and beautiful to watch.

RESPONSE:  I hope you enjoyed the party.

COMMENT:  That is definitely the most credit you’ve given LeBron that I’ve read. Almost, for a second, sounded as if you liked him- but then I kept reading. Although I always enjoy your posts, I’m going to disagree with something you wrote (surprise)- I do not think Lebrons decision to go to Miami was cowardly- at all. He did what anyone would do to get ahead in his job, further his career and achieve the ultimate goal. He has taken ridiculous amounts of abuse from every city around and has held his head high through it all. He is a leader and has not tried to steal the spotlight at all. He has his eyes on the prize as does the rest of the Miami Heat players.  If he was wearing a USA jersey for the Olympics the country would be cheering for him.

RESPONSE: When LeBron decides to play for Team USA, it’s not like he’s looking at 30 different options and choosing the one that represents the easiest path to a title.  Team USA happens to represent the easiest path to a gold medal, but it’s not like LeBron chooses to be on Team USA instead of other teams.  He’s on Team USA because he’s an American citizen.

Now, before closing out the season, let’s summarize why LeBron is so disliked:

* He came into the league with more hype than any other player.  This isn’t necessarily his fault, but he certainly added fuel to the fire.  He tattooed “Chosen 1” on his body.  He wore the number 23.  His nickname is King James.  His ad campaign says “We Are All Witnesses.” Clearly, he was trying to be something other than just an ordinary superstar.  (For some perspective, remember that other dudes near his level have nicknames like “Durantula,” and ad campaigns about falling down 7 times and getting up 8, or something like that.)  With so much hype and such an oversized personality, things were destined to come crashing down eventually if he failed to win a title.

*  For years, he fought sports gravity.  The general rule in sports is that people root for their own teams.  They sometimes become fans of guys on other teams, but rarely in mass numbers.  For the first few years of his career, LeBron was a phenom, and people generally rooted for him.  Then, about the time he stopped getting the benefit of the doubt as a result of being a phenom, his free agency was approaching. Fans of multiple teams thought they were getting him, so, instead of rooting against him like they ordinarily would, they rooted for him, almost as if he was one of their own players.  This, too, was destined to lead to a backlash, for reasons that are not necessarily LeBron’s fault.

*  “The Decision,” and the following celebration, were both obnoxious.  If these were the only reasons people had to dislike LeBron, people would have gotten over them eventually.  But they weren’t the only reasons.

*  Even if he hadn’t done the stupid tv show or celebration, the decision (lower-case letters) to go to Miami was infuriating.  At the end of the day, ignoring everything else, he had to decide where to continue his career, and he made the unprecedented choice of trying to pursue greatness while taking a backseat to a superstar who had already established himself.  Millions of people (including me) see it as an act of cowardice, and don’t want him to be rewarded for it.

All of that said, it’s true that he hasn’t committed a crime and that, by all accounts, he’s a good family man off-the-court.  So, nothing he has done is irreversible.  Reversing the negative feelings about him, though, will be very difficult, because now he’s stuck on Wade’s team.  Now that people have woken up to what he did, there might be a ceiling on the amount of credit he’ll get, even if he does everything right and the team wins.  It will be hard for him to reverse things very quickly because the team would be excellent without him.  Decisions, though, have consequences, and that is the consequence of The Decision.

As far as human dramas go, it’s really quite fascinating.  I know that I’ll be watching next year, to see how he responds (assuming there’s a season!!).

Until then, enjoy the off-season, hoopservers!!!

1 Comment:

  • Jones

    Although we will always just have to agree to disagree on LeBron, I love reading your blog- both for your opinions & for all of the great and informative stats & info. It says a lot for your writing if I am a proud Miami Heat fan yet still look forward to reading Hoopservation next season. :)

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The anger that I devoted a five-part series to has been subsiding recently.  In fact, it’s almost completely gone.

That’s because a funny thing happened on the way to the King’s Corronation… people finally started to realize that King James didn’t deserve the crown.  And once that happened, I had nothing left to be angry about.

Basketball fans everywhere are talking about LeBron these days.  The conversation is all over the internets and the sports radio airwaves.  I’ve been following it intensely, and, while I generally agree with most of what I’m hearing, I think people are missing the point.  Have no fear, Tweener is here to set the record straight…

First, some context.  When people talk about the best basketball players of all time, there is a ceiling on how high a guy who never led his team to a title can go.  Because of that, no serious basketball fan will rank Barkley, Malone, Stockton, or Ewing among the top-10 ever.  To crack the top 10, or even the top 15, a player needs a ring.

The reason why a player needs a ring to crack the Upper Level is that people – correctly, I believe – recognize that the ability to lead a team to a championship is something that very few players have.  Those who have put that feather in their cap have obtained the most impressive credential for a basketball great to acquire.

The mere notion that a Guy Who Might Be King could run to a team that already had a superstar with that feather in his cap, and somehow validate himself by “winning a championship” on that guy’s team sent me into a tizzy.  To even think that it was possible for a guy to “validate” himself in such a cowardly fashion is to undermine the very essence of basketball greatness.  As I watched the Heat march through the early rounds of the playoffs, and heard multiple people say that LeBron was inching closer to “validating” himself as one of the all-time greats, my head spun.

As I blogged in December of 2009, long before hoopservations.com took over the internet (ahem), one of the reasons why I felt that LeBron was overrated was that Bill Simmons – a widely-respected basketball maven – actually undertook the effort to rank the top players of all time, and put LeBron – who had only played 6 seasons at the time – at #20.  The implication seemed to be that if this amazingly-talented youngster simply kept doing what he was doing, he was well on his way to landing in the top 10, or even top 5, or perhaps even on The Throne.  Why didn’t LeBron have to lead a team to a championship in order to deserve that kind of credit?  I had no idea.

More recently, hearing knowledgeable people talk as if a Heat championship would put LeBron in the Upper Level — without considering the possibility that Wade deserved to be ranked ahead of him — tormented my basketball-loving soul.

Well, that’s water under the bridge now.  Since the last time I wrote, the lights got brighter.  The pressure got more intense.  Dirk stepped up for the Mavs, and has been brilliant.  Wade stepped up for the Heat, and has demonstrated himself to be the team’s leader.  And, most importantly, PEOPLE HAVE TAKEN NOTICE.  The Guy Who Might Be King has games where he just blends into the scenery, and the basketball universe is responding as if the wool has been pulled over its eyes for the past 8 years.

Even Bill Simmons, he of the top-20 ranking for LeBron a few years ago, now acknowledges that the Heat is Wade’s team.  Checka, checka, check out what Simmons is saying now:

If you watched Games 3 and 4 in person, you knew Miami belonged to Dwyane Wade. That was the hardest thing to shake. We made so much fuss about LeBron these past two years and he’s not even the most important dude on his own team.

Amen.  I’m glad you’ve seen the light, Bill.  Wish I could take some credit for showing you what you had been missing, but only 8 people read my blog, so I highly doubt that I had anything to do with it.

Of course, I shouldn’t get ahead of myself.  I don’t know what’s gonna happen later.  For all I know, LeBron will put up 35-15-12 over each of the next two games, and the Heat will win the title.  But I know this… In any given came, LeBron might do something that neither Michael nor Magic nor Larry nor Wilt could do.  He’s simply that talented.  It’s also true that, in any given game, LeBron might do something that neither Michael nor Magic nor Larry nor Wilt would do, like disappear completely when his team needs him most.  He’s simply that inconsistent.  When it comes to the ability to rise to the moment when the pressure is highest — sometimes called “killer instinct,” sometimes called “greatness,” and sometimes called “leadership” — LeBron simply can’t compare to the guys in the Upper Level.

As this is probably my last posting of the 2011 season, I’ll close by saying… Go Mavs. Well, sort of.  I don’t really care anymore.  No matter what happens in the rest of the series, I’ll head into the off-season knowing that my sport is going to be ok.  (Unless, of course, LeBron puts up two big games, and people forget how often he needed to be carried by Wade.  If that happens, the rants will re-commence.)

1 Comment:

  • The VIrtuoso

    Great hoopservations! Like you and the rest of the hoopservational universe, my bros and I have been discussing the same stuff recently. I am interested to read your next post, because last night’s final game was really, well, telling. There were sequences when Lebron got the ball WIDE OPEN five times in one possession and still wouldn’t dare to shoot. You mention greatness, leadership, killer instinct–this was more like “I have no confidence at all and, oh, by the way, I had my balls chopped off last night. I think I’ll drain a three with a minute on the clock when the game is already out of reach.”

    Unbelievable playoffs and finals.

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