Wednesday, November 3, 2010

LeBron James is Really Good



LeBron James is the best basketball player in the world. Kobe lovers will point to his rings, his 81-point game, and his ability to make the clutch shots at the end of games. All of those things make Kobe Bryant a historically great player, and he was certainly the best player post-Jordan, pre-LeBron. But it's silly to me for anyone to attempt to argue that Kobe is a better player than James. James carried a below average Cavs team to the best record in basketball last season. When Kobe played with a group of misfits, the team won 35 games. Kobe is a great player and his abilities help the team win, but he isn't the kind of player who makes everyone around him better. Kobe is better playing with another elite player--there's a reason his teams have only been successful with Shaq in his prime and now Pau Gasol in his prime. James has a Magic Johnson-like ability to make his teammates better, and that's why the Cavs were so successful over the last several years with James leading the squad.

Whether you agree with me or not isn't the issue, though. I watched LeBron James last night simply tear apart our beloved Timberwolves. LeBron ran the point for most of the game, and he was a point guard in every meaning of the position. He didn't have a single rebound, which is amazing considering he's a 6'9 player, and more amazing when you consider that the Wolves are a below average rebounding team, and without Kevin Love on the floor they are downright brutal. The Heat won the game 129-97, so James didn't need to grab any boards to ensure victory, but you'd think over the course of the game James would find himself near the rim at least a few times. For whatever reason, James seemed to decide that since he was running the point, he wouldn't be rebounding that night.

James finished with 20 points and 12 assists in 32 minutes of play, but most notably he only turned the ball over one time. Now, of course, the Timberwolves should be among the worst teams in basketball this year, so the fact that LeBron James made them look like high school kids isn't all that impressive. But watching LeBron play field general last night, it was clear that the instincts are absolutely there. James sees plays way ahead of time, and because of his insane physical gifts, he can make plays that we haven't seen from a point guard ever. LeBron isn't officially the team's point guard, and each game will present a specific match-up that will determine how long James spends running the point. However, over the next few months, I fully expect James to spend the majority of his minutes running the show.

Prior to this season, I thought James would be okay as a point-forward, because they aren't required to handle the ball nearly as much as a point-guard. If you don't know what a point-forward is, it's what Scottie Pippen was during the great Bulls run in the 90's. A point-forward is rarely expected to take the ball up the court, but he will go get the ball once it crosses half court and will set up the offense. It's a difficult roll to fill because it requires specific skills that even most NBA players don't have. LeBron James has all the skills, though.

He isn't a great ball-handler when compared to point-guards, and against quicker, smaller teams any advantage LeBron has in the low block will be negated by his inability to take the ball up the court without turning it over multiple times a half. With that said though, it's clear to me LeBron James has the skill-set to in fact be one of the league's best point-guards. If he plays about 35 minutes a night and spends even 15 minutes at the point, he's even more valuable than anyone imagined. He can realistically play any position on the floor and at times will be the best player at each of those positions.

I still loathe LeBron for his terrible decision to have the ESPN special, but there's no denying just how talented this guy really is. He's probably going to go down in history as the most physically gifted player the league has ever seen, and if the Heat roll into four or five world championships, Jordan will absolutely have competition on the 'Greatest of All-Time' list.

James ability to morph into Scottie Pippen or Magic Johnson for a portion of the game before going back into a scoring mode is something the Heat will need if they want to win the title this year. While it seems like a lot to ask for a superstar like LeBron to change his game after playing one way for so many years, there's no doubting if anyone can do it, it's LeBron. He showed us fans a glimpse tonight of just how good he really is, and that there's no limit to what he could accomplish over the next six years.

One of these games James is going to get a triple double, and then he'll reel off something like four triple doubles in six games and everyone will realize that this guy is simply amazing. Kobe is more loved now, because of James terrible decision making and his handling of the situation in the immediate after math of the poor decision. But just because Kobe is liked more does not mean Kobe is in fact a better player. James is better in every way imaginable besides long-distance shooting.

LeBron, as I expected even during the summer, the better you play, the more and more I find myself rooting for you. My brain is telling me to hate you, you're unloyal, you left a fan base and an ownership out to dry... but my heart is telling me that you are THE once-in-a-generation talent, and one day I'm going to be telling my kids about LeBron James and how he was the greatest basketball player I ever saw. I'm guessing at that point in time I won't care that he screwed Cleveland, so the way I see it, if LeBron continues to dominate and play like the superstar he is, I'll just have to speed the process up quite a bit and enjoy watching the superstar. But he's still a front-runner.