Ten years ago tonight we all became “Witnesses” as LeBron’s NBA career began in Sacramento.
Tonight the 2013-2014 NBA season tips off and while the regular season may be fairly predictable, come May things could get very interesting. The last three-peat was successfully executed by the Lakers when Shaq won three straight Finals MVP awards. What does this season mean to the legacy of LeBron?
Kareem, Magic, Bird, Mike, Kobe are the standards that LeBron has been held to since he first stepped onto an NBA floor exactly ten years ago today. Four finals appearances, multiple MVP honors, two gold medals and two championships later we want to see more. I am not sure if I have witnessed (see what I did there?) a player who has been more scrutinized in their career than #6. Is some of this because we live in Twitter and Facebook world where every single possession is analyzed as if it is game seven? Maybe some of it is warranted and brought on himself (see The Decision July 8, 2010). But let’s Tarantino this and dig a little deeper.
LeBron got a tattoo that said “The Chosen One” when he was still in high school. Maybe this is a bit arrogant but c’mon, when everyone is telling you how good you are I’m surprised he didn’t get it on his forehead. The day after he played his last high school game he signed a $90 million plus shoe deal. Now for most of his time in Cleveland no one really hated LBJ.
We criticized him for not making buzzer beaters and not being able to make it past the Pistons, Celtics, or even Orlando in the playoffs. I mean this guy took a group of bums to the NBA Finals only to get swept by a Spurs team that clearly had them outclassed in talent. LeBron couldn’t make a mid-range jumper to save his life at that time and he was still considered one of the top three players in the league.
“The Decision” changed a lot of opinions. Cleveland fans burnt his jersey and vowed to hate him forever. They root against him like he is not even from the state of Ohio. The guy who saved the Cavs organization from multiple losing seasons and was the marketed “King” of Cleveland and the NBA was now shunned.
I am in the minority of Cleveland sports fans who accepted his leaving and still root for his success. It’s kind of like breaking up with your really hot girlfriend, you just have to get over it right? Well some people didn’t and still hold on to it to this day. The interesting thing is that part of LeBron’s legacy may involve him coming back to the 216.
The scary thing is that if you are a Bulls fan or just an MJ fan is that for the first time since Mike that there is someone that is even worthy of the comparison talk. This is why this season could be potentially huge in the Legacy of LeBron; however it doesn’t kill his legacy if another team walks away with the title this year.
It would be huge because he would be the first one to walk away with a three-peat along with three Finals MVP awards since it has been accomplished by MJ and Shaq.
Just making it back to the Finals he will have done something not accomplished since Larry Legend did it back in the late 80’s by going to the finals four straight years. But we have all been watching the NBA over the last three years. The guy that failed in the 2011 NBA Finals is not the guy we have seen in the last two years in the playoffs. If you have any doubt, ask the Pacers, Bulls, or Celtics. The player that we saw pull up from 16 feet to ice game 7 of the 2013 NBA Finals is a totally different player than the guy Tim Duncan’s squad defeated in 2007.
The even scarier thing is that LeBron is STILL getting better. Even with a title this year many will say he needs a fourth before the real discussion about MJ vs. LBJ can start. The truth is that it is a way different league now. The speed, length and strength of the players provide us with a more athletic league than ever before.
Love or hate the guy you are watching greatness, there is something a little extra special in some players. We watch LBJ to see him succeed and some watch to see him fail. The difference between a championship and a second place finish can come down to a rebound or a couple threes to win an improbable game 6 by LeBron and Ray. The Bulls, Pacers, Nets, Spurs and Clippers all want to hoist the trophy as well. Role players will make a difference and all great teams have had them (Horry, Rodman, Kerr).
Ultimately the team will be defined by their leader and whatever the outcome the heat is on #6 in South Beach as he continues his quest to: “Be like Mike”