For two straight years, the NBA has been going through crazy summers. In 2018 it was LeBron moving to LA and Kawhi heading to Toronto. Just when everyone thought those moves were crazy, the 2019 offseason decided to one-up last year.
It started off with AD finally getting his way and going to the Lakers. There was a lot of insanity in between, including Kyrie and KD teaming up in Brooklyn. It ended when Kawhi made another move, heading to the Clippers and taking PG with him.
So, once again, this new NBA season is gearing up to be one of the most exciting and unpredictable ones in the history of the league. Get hyped (agian)! The NBA is back!
Let’s get the pleasantries out of the way – LeBron James is the greatest player of all-time.
There, I said it.
I could already hear you laughing. I could already feel you’re about to close this window, shut your laptop down, and throw it in my direction. I could already see you typing in the comment section and asking “Why did SLAM PH allow this guy to write this awful article.”
But hear me out. You can laugh and throw your phone later.
Like you, I was led to believe that Chicago’s 23 is untouchable. No matter which player we dubbed as the “next Michael Jordan,” they almost always fell short of our expectations. That’s the curse endowed to those who wanted to be like Mike.
The Dwyane Wades.
The Jerry Stackhouses.
The Vince Carters.
Even the Kobe Bryants never came close to MJ, no matter how absurd that sounds.
Here’s the thing about Jordan’s legacy: he set the standard for greatness, then stole the bar and brought it way up, never to be seen again. It was meant to ensure that there will be no debate whatsoever and we’ll never waver from everyone’s opinion that Jordan is the greatest. Why would we when he’s a six-time champion, five-time MVP, owns the greatest signature shoe line, and starred in one of the most iconic basketball films ever?
But after seeing LeBron and what he has done at this stage in his career, I’m starting to waver.
In his 17 years in the league, James has carried immense pressure to perform and easily exceeded EVERY expectation we had for him.
Remember the Sports Illustrated cover where they crowned him as the Chosen One? He averaged splits of 21-5-6 as a rookie, and played with poise while being under the microscope for the entire year.
Or at 22 years old and facing the Detroit Pistons for a spot in the NBA Finals? He scored 29 of Cleveland’s last 30 in Game 5, literally carrying a team that had Daniel Gibson as their 2nd best player.
When he took his talents to South Beach and had a big target on his back? He carried Miami to four straight NBA Finals appearance, went back-to-back, and unleashed the best version of himself the same way Heath Ledger had the best movie portrayal of Joker (sorry, Joaquin Phoenix).
Or when he moved back to Cleveland, vowed to end their title drought, lost in their first year in the Finals, regrouped the following year, and found themselves down 3-1 against a team that won 73 games?
Well, this happened.
At 34 years old, it’s becoming very hard to find reasons to hate LeBron’s game. We’re basically nitpicking at this point. I wish he could lock people up more on the defensive end. I wish he could dunk on centers more when driving through the paint. I wish he could pivot, spin, fade, and attempt a hookshot with his eyes closed. Again, we’re picking nits.
LeBron’s curse is that he never had a long-term rivalry with any player or team. He destroyed Chicago, played around with Boston, sent Atlanta to basketball purgatory, and embarrassed Toronto every chance he gets. LeBron had the whole Eastern Conference at the palm of his hands, teams waited for his transfer to the West before making drastic moves to their roster – just like the Toronto Raptors, who went all-in on Kawhi Leonard last summer.
The asterisk on Jordan’s career was the fact that he had to prematurely retire at the age of 33, knowing he had nothing left to prove.It was clear MJ was on top of the NBA mountain while the rest were just getting ready to start the long trek. It was only when he saw Shaquille and Penny and Payton and Stockton and Malone nearing the summit when Jordan realized he had to get back to the game and defend his place at the top. What resulted next was another three-peat and avalanche of accolades that finally put every doubt against his legacy to rest.
In LeBron’s case today, Kawhi is already on the summit with him.
From the time Kawhi won his second Finals MVP and became the king in the north, to fooling the rest of the Lakers fan base into thinking he was coming home, he owned the NBA and the title of “best player right now.” LeBron on the other hand, had to endure the long offseason, hearing sports media outlets tell him that this is his end. It’s the best thing that happened to James since Kevin Durant joined the Golden State three years ago.
In a snap, LeBron found his curse to his legacy in Kawhi. In one move, LeBron is doubted once again, no matter how absurd that also sounds.
There’s a saying that goes, “Aim for the moon because even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” In Year 17, LeBron James will need to be LeBron James, even if it’s for the last time. One more dominant season. One more deep playoff run. One more title.
At 34 years old, he knows everyone is asking the world of him.
But trust me when I say that LeBron is aiming for that moon.
He knows that’s where Jordan hid the bar.
GET HYPED 2019