Monday, February 23, 2009

Fear Not of Man

I find myself in more awe watching the current Lebron James than watching Michael Jordan at his best.
OK. I recognize the outrageous blasphemy in that statement, and I hesitated before typing it. I even thought about hiding it in a paragraph like a cryptic message so it wouldn't be easily discovered. But no, it needs to be alone, because of its loneliness, hence the doubling up of random pictures between that statement and this paragraph. This isn't to say that the current Lebron is better than MJ; that is sacrilege of the highest Basketball degree. But I get a different emotion when watching The King. While I'm amazed with Jordan, I'm scared of Lebron. My attempt at substantiating this absurd thesis lies after the next random picture…

Before I get flooded with requests to revoke my sports opinion, allow me to explain. I acknowledge that said explanation may still be an eloquently veiled excuse, but I'll try anyway. In order to lay some sort of plausible foundation, I think I should start with AI. Allen Iverson is my favorite all-time player—yes, ahead of Jordan in his tongue-wagging prime. I feel like I have to keep stressing that I know Jordan is Basketball Supreme. He is The Best, and every time Kobe makes an offensive move, Jordan's greatness is more reaffirmed in my mind. (Oddly enough, the same happens whenever I watch Vince Carter play.) The reason Iverson resonated so deeply with me is because there was no one like him to grace the floor since I had started watching the game. Whether he was the best player in the game that night or not, no one could copy his style. Seeing Iverson was the first time I had noticed a transcendent talent. He was someone that not even MJ could figure out initially—nothing about Iverson came from any of Jordan's derivatives. I relished in his rebelliousness. His defiant step over Tyronn Lue in the Finals was a landmark moment in Hoops for me. It permanently cemented him as my favorite basketball player.

At first, I thought that me being more gravitated to AI and Lebron than Jordan was due to the fact that when Jordan was actively ruling the Basketball Realm, I was too young to really appreciate the finer things of Basketball—and that these two players are the most unique of the post-Jordan era. But even as I analyze Prime Jordan with a keener Basketball mind, and revel in His Airness-ness, I still don't have quite the same feeling I do when observing Iverson and Lebron. Watching Prime Jordan (and Prime Kobe, for that matter) is like watching a man alone set out to take vengeance on those that know he's mortal. His divinity comes through unceasing enhancement of strengths and development of faults to near-flawlessness. He's the living proof that perfect practice makes perfect. Add that to his free-flowing, spontaneous-yet-simultaneously-planned Basketball operations; and you have Zeus in outstanding tennis shoes.

So why does Lebron frighten me if there's already someone atop Mount Olympus? You may be thinking that current Lebron doesn't have many postseason moments; even if they're compared to Jordan or Kobe's first six years. He only has two, with one of them being in a Conference Finals victory and one being in defeat and bested by another man's dawning of the superhero cape. However, with Current Lebron, I don't have that same reassurance that Jordan will forever remain The Best. Lebron slowly erodes that thinking with each move, each pass, and each annoying powder clap. It's not that he's so advanced in the game without having college education. It's not even each of his thunderous one-man stampedes to the rim. I think the reason why I'm scared of Lebron is because he is the only player that can assume Basketball perfection without perfecting every aspect of his game.

The one "flaw" in Lebron's game is a consistent perimeter jump shot. He has a hitch in it, which means that he doesn't shoot the same shot twice. The way defenses are designed today, a perimeter player almost has to have some semblance of an outside game. This is where the fear comes in when I look at Lebron. I feel that he doesn't have to be as good a shooter as, say, Dwyane Wade because of how physically superior he is to…everyone. And when he does lose that proverbial step, he becomes, at worst, as quick as Ron Artest or Paul Pierce off the dribble. Then there's the underutilized post game that may reveal itself once he moves to New York and doesn't have a true center clogging the lane. His version of MJ/Kobe's turnaround fadeaway would then be a four-foot baby hook—a more boring but more efficient tool; and unstoppable considering who would be defending him.

Or, he could do what we all expect but still can't conceive. He could refine that jumper and be deadly in all dimensions for the next dozen years. Is that scarier than the scenario in the previous paragraph? I can't really say. But the fact that it's legitimately conversed about is a testament to what Lebron could be. I understand that perimeter defenders could get away with a lot more in Jordan's heyday than now, but the tradeoff with that is the athletes are far more, well, athletic than in previous eras; with more of said physical phenoms in the Association. There wasn't such a thing as Josh Smith twenty years ago. As Jordan/Kobe is the lonesome Samurai achieving Basketball balance from elemental sharpening, Lebron is Hercules—causing tremors as he harnesses his wrath in the name of Basketball.

The "Fear" Order goes:

I hope I fully explained myself in this post. If I didn't, feel free to let me know so in the comments. I'll answer any questions that you may have, and will stand by my initial sentence.


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