by user 18.104.22.168
I’ll admit it. When LeBron James first came into the NBA I was skeptical. I just couldn’t anoint a high-school kid as the savior of the NBA, not after watching Kwame Brown, Jonathan Bender, and other highly regarded 18 year-olds completely bomb. I even went as far as to argue with a buddy of mine that Ricky Davis was the superior player, and that LeBron would have to defer to Davis, at least for his first few years. Even after LeBron secured control of the team with a 25 point debut against the Kings, elevated his play to All-Star level in his second year, and raised his game to further heights this year, I still had doubts. He was obviously one of the top five players in the league, but at one point so was Shawn Kemp (’95-’96, in case you were wondering when that possibly could have been).
Being an elite player for one or two or even ten seasons doesn’t make you an icon, a legend or a savior. In order to reach those heights, your game must change the way others play it, be it defenders, teammates, or kids emulating your style. You have to awe the fans who have watched the game every night for as long as they can remember, and then you have to reach beyond those fans, beyond the hometown fans, beyond the fans who watch TNT’s weekly games, beyond the guys who catch Sportscenter every now and then, and into the imagination of those people who are not and never were fans in the first place. Dr. J did, Magic and Bird did, and, of course, MJ did, but I did not think LeBron had (or could).
And then, over the past three weeks, as the Cavs went 11-1 and James averaged 35.6 points, 5 assists, and 7 rebounds per game while shooting 50.7 percent from the floor, LeBron made a believer out of me. It’s not just the winning or the gaudy stats, because the Cavs really haven’t won anything yet and those are the kinds of numbers expected of LeBron. It’s the style LeBron is showcasing during this run. A style that is entirely his own. It is a style that will change the way the game is played.
I don’t know how many of you saw that play in the New Jersey game that gave the Cavs the lead but it was truly mind-boggling. With around a minute left to play, LeBron got a loose ball in the open floor and drove hard to the basket, only to be wrapped up by not one, not two, but three Nets. Trailing by 2, any fan (and probably any player or coach, for that matter) would be satisfied with 2 free throws, but not LeBron, who somehow powered the ball through Jason Kidd, Clifford Robinson, and Vince Carter to convert the hoop. At that moment, I knew the LeBron Era had arrived.
No one, and I mean no one, can combine the quickness, ball-handling, and physical dominance that James possesses. He’s like Shaq with 4.4 speed, dribbling skills, and amazing floor vision. At 21, in his third NBA season, LeBron is already unstoppable. And he finally knows it, playing at a pace very similar to MJ in that he spends the first three quarters picking his spots, getting his teammates involved, and then just takes over in the fourth, driving at will and finishing and-ones at an absurd rate (as of April 10th, LeBron has 77, with Dwayne Wade next at 54).
I believe it was Doug Collins who opined that LeBron wouldn’t truly arrive until he discovered a spot on the floor that is money for him anytime he needs it, ala Jordan’s turnaround jumper from the elbow. Well, Doug, he found it, and it’s deep in the paint with 2 or 3 defenders draped all over him.
By Canaan Christ @ HoopsAddict.com
Wed 04/12/06, 3:47 am EST