Thursday, June 7, 2007

LeBron James is not the saviour of the NBA

This isn't a post that will denounce LeBron James or his accomplishments. If that's what you're looking for, then move along. At the same time, this isn't a piece that will exalt "The King" either, so be prepared for what is to follow.

I would not even had to have seen the final game of the series between the Pistons and the Cavaliers to have known who won the next day when listening to talk radio. The effusive praise being spouted forth engulfed me like a swimming pool full of Jell-O (quite a sight to behold, by the way) -- and it all centered on one man: LBJ. "LeBron has saved the Finals", "LeBron saved the fanbase of the NBA", "LeBron has proven his doubters wrong", "This is the coming out party for LeBron". These were the things I heard over and over that morning and have continued to hear over the past few days. Well, I don't agree with all of them and I'm about to tell you why.

First, let's address the issue of LeBron "saving us" from another Spurs vs. Pistons NBA Finals. I might have been the only one who remembers what a fantastic series that was.....albeit mostly because of the outstanding final three games, since the first four were somewhat boring due to their lack of suspense. Both the Spurs and the Pistons play phenomenal fundamental team basketball -- the way basketball was meant to be played, in fact. After the lottery results were announced, some of us settled in to watch the Spurs-Jazz playoff game that followed. Time and again we were amazed at the crisp passing and movement by the Spurs on offense, as well as their ability to help each other on defense. Was it as "entertaining" as watching the Suns run and gun? No. Was it still a joy to watch a team execute plays perfectly over and over? Absolutely. The Pistons play the same way, as the Spurs, which makes for a lack of contrasting styles, but is a display of the fundamentals of basketball that has been sorely lacking for some time now. So, count me out of the group that thinks that LeBron "saved us" from something by willing his team to the Finals.

I do believe that LeBron's emergence will help create new fans, draw interest from the "casual fans" and will certainly help the television ratings, I think that Cleveland's presence in the Finals will be a short-lived blessing for them. I think that LeBron has managed to do two things that most people are not considering. He has met very high expectations.....and simultaneously raised them for the remainder of his career. Chip and I discussed this the other day, in fact. By making the Finals in only his 4th year as a pro, he has actually reached the unrealistic bar that was set for him before he even got drafted. Unfortunately for him, now the expectations are going to be raised to the point of people expecting, nay demanding a championship next season, even though he has the worst supporting cast I've seen since watching Jimmy Chitwood play for Hickory High. Larry Bird had more help at Indiana State, I think. But, if there is one thing I've come to know, it is that once you have proven you can do something, then it becomes the "new standard". If you don't believe me, look at how the expectations were raised for the Memphis Grizzlies after vaulting from 28 wins to 50 the next year. By the time the next season had begun, people were talking about title contention! Don't ever forget that the word "fan" is short for "fanatic".....and fanatics are rarely ever coherent or lucid about the things nearest and dearest to their hearts.

So having said all that, let me conclude by saying that LeBron has had a remarkable run so far this postseason and that I hope his team will have a very competitive series with San Antonio over the next few weeks. Let's not have him fitted for a new crown, robe and scepter just yet though.

1 comment:

MemphisX said...

I think the problem with sports in general is the power of suggestion that lies with ESPN and talk radio. It is just pure human nature. If you hear something enough, you start to believe it. It is hard to resist. I think the NBA will be fine with or without the next Jordan. The NBA is at the doorstep of the next golden age. Much like when Magic and Bird entered the league. That age ended with MJ's shot against Utah and there was a pause. This next age will be more international and my prediction is that the NBA will rival the NFL, if not surpass it due to sjeer numbers via international popularity. This is when the genius of David Stern will be felt.