In the aftermath of last night’s Boston Celtics 120-88 rout over the Cleveland Cavaliers last night to go up 3-2 in the Eastern Conference semifinals, both scribes and spectators are questioning the basketball lineage of the King. The basketball world is wondering if LeBron James deserves or will he ever reach the pantheon of the greatest of the great?
Perhaps, the inquiries and lables of LeBrick, LeBronze or LeGon are justified as LeBron James’ poor shooting and all around inertia on the court in Game 5 has pretty much put his team on the precipice of not even making the conference finals let alone winning his first NBA title. Recently, Magic Johnson bequeathed the title of “the best player in the game” upon LeBron during an interview about his selection as this year’s MVP. And this was supposed to be the year that LeBron would fulfill the prophecy. His idol Michael Jordan copped his first ring in his seventh season, which LeBron is in now.
Within basketball and at its logical conclusion – the NBA – there is an eternal tension.
At its most harmonious, the game like jazz shares a fundamental form of individual improvisation with teamwork. In both, there is the understanding that each player is functioning alone but in response to all the choices made by each other in real time. The game is based on rhythm and not a set formula or algorithm.
However, often, the game hinges on one player dominating the action. The best player is expected to carry a team on his back and save the day like a comic book hero. Ultimately, the game seems to require a great solo performer much like a virtuoso rapper spittin’ alone at the mic save a phat back beat (at least back-in-the-day pre auto-tune).
In the post tape-delayed universe of the NBA (since 1980, the last time an NBA Finals due to poor ratings was broadcast on tape delay) there have been several players deemed great because of winning multiple championships. Magic and Isiah Thomas could be defined as those who operated mostly within the kumbaya jazz realm. Oh, you might not think of Isiah like that but he truly sublimated his game for the benefit of the team. Jordan and Kobe Bryant stand out as players most aligned within the hubristic hip hop mode.
Now for sure, none of the above mentioned is totally within one category as then you would at one become Jason Kidd or Dominique Wilkins at the other. And every player has flaws in their game or personal fault lines that could crash and dash thier championship dreams.
But the King at this very moment seems torn at which way to play. The hpnotiq basketball mix of Magic and Mike is playing schizophrenic. I don’t see a plan. One half he’s Magic but the other he’s Mike. One game he’s Kobe then the next he’s Isiah. It works sometimes but even a broken clock is right twice a day.
Beyond his own faults, he must overcome the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune: a suspect coach, a crappy supporting cast and playing in a town that has not won a professional sports title since 1964.
It’s time for LeBron to welcome the chance to define his legacy. Confucius (my fortune cookie from my Chinese dinner tonight) said: Adversity is the prosperity of the great.