Monday, July 5, 2010

LeBron and his Legacy



LeBron James is the best basketball player in the world. I feel as confident about that as I do saying Lionel Messi is the greatest soccer player in the world* or Albert Pujols is the greatest baseball player in the world. I no longer argue with people who swear Kobe is better, because anyone who looks at the statistics will see just HOW MUCH better LeBron is than Kobe and anyone else in basketball at this point. Of course, some people hate statistics, using their eyes to make judgments. I think people need to have a combination of both to come to reasonable conclusions, but in this case it doesn't matter because even if you just watch a LeBron game, and then a Kobe game, it's clear that Kobe is working very hard to score his points. LeBron makes everything look so easy. Kobe makes shooting look easy, but everything else he does looks difficult. There is nothing wrong with that... Kobe is no longer in the prime of his career and he's still an elite player by any measure.

*I don't know very much about soccer, and simply watching the World Cup hardly makes me an expert on soccer players. However, Messi is pretty clearly the best player in the world, because even the announcers during Argentina's matches refused to call Lionel Messi by his given name, instead consistently saying things like "The Greatest Player in the World with a fantastic pass there." LeBron is in this kind of league.

Everyone knows that sometime in the near future, possibly later today, LeBron James is going to make a decision on where he will spend at least the next five or six years of his basketball career, but more likely the remainder of his career. The Cavs, Bulls, Heat, Knicks and Nets have all made their pitches to try to get LeBron to sign with their team. It's up to LeBron now to decide what he deems best for his career. If he wants to win as many championships as possible, it's either going to be Chicago with Bosh, or Miami with Wade and probably Bosh.

I believe that would be a mistake. I understand that LeBron wants to win more titles than Jordan, but I think many people will consider LeBron a chicken. He couldn't do it in Cleveland, so he ran away to let some other guys carry the load. There's nothing wrong with that if LeBron decides to do it... strictly from a winning standpoint, it makes the most sense. If we were machines, incapable of emotions, LeBron would have already signed in Miami with Bosh and Wade. Unfortunately for Heat/Bulls fans, we're not machines.

LeBron's legacy isn't going to be just how many games or titles he wins. If LeBron decides to stay home, and eventually can bring one or multiple titles to a city that hasn't had a major sports team win a title since 1949, he'd be more than a legend. As a Twins fan living in Minnesota, the day Mauer signed his huge contract, Joe Mauer became more than a man. He is the most beloved Minnesota athlete in my lifetime, by a wide margin, and that won't change at all in the near future.

LeBron is an even bigger star than Mauer. He has the opportunity to be the guy that passed up the 'easy' decision to go play with more stars to stay at home, continue to outwork everyone on the court, and eventually bring a title to tortured Cleveland.

It's this simple: If LeBron stays in Cleveland, he'll instantly be my favorite athlete in sports. If he leaves, he'll be my least favorite. That's probably unfair--but it's how it is. Loyalty is the most important quality in a person in my opinion. If someone's loyal, it's a lot easier to look past some of their flaws because you know they'll always have your back. I've always thought LeBron was a loyal person. He hired his friends to run his business(es?) right when he got his first paycheck and continues to have a business relationship with them today. I was positive LeBron would be in Cleveland for his career.

If I had to guess, I'd still say LeBron stays in Cleveland. As enticing as Chicago or New York or even Miami may be, being a legend in the place he grew up should be more than enough to keep the Greatest Basketball Player in the World at home.