LeBron James is undeniably talented. He is supremely gifted. James is unquestionably one of the greatest players in NBA history. But where he places in history, continues to be a sliding scale.
He has very few peers as far as physical gifts are concerned. Size, speed, agility, athleticism, and power. Those things, like in any draft, always are a persuasive argument. You can fix other things, but those god-given gifts are what they are. So these things can’t be debated. He has them, and has more of them than most everyone ever.
But it’s the other things we measure basketball players by that we continue to judge him on. The winning, the leadership, the decision-making, the shot-making, the defense, and the overall impact are always up for debate. Just because you did it great once, does mean you’ll do it again. Just because you did it great once, or had multiple MVP’s doesn’t make you immune to critique, especially when the comparisons are to the legends we already saw, read about, and revere.
Everyone’s goal is to get to the top of the mountain. Nobody really aims to climb up half-way, do they? So, it’s understandable that as a perimeter player his goal is Michael Jordan. The one flaw I find is it unfairly overlooks others, and overrates the current star.
Before we start talking about Jordan and Magic Johnson, shouldn’t LeBron be forced to climb over the other all-time greats below them? You don’t jump from the ground to the top of the mountain. You’re forced to climb.
Has LeBron passed Dr. J? Oscar Robertson? Larry Bird? Kobe Bryant? From a basketball standpoint, I don’t really see how he has yet.
Heck, that doesn’t even bring into account big guys, who we usually grade separately. LeBron certainly hasn’t reached the equivalent of Russell, Chamberlain, Abdul-Jabbar, Hakeem, or even modern stars like Shaq and Duncan.
It’s not to say he can’t or won’t, but when I see performances like Game 3, it serves as a reminder how great some of the other greats were. LeBron James reminds us for all of his extraordinary gifts, he is still lacking in certain areas as a player. I mean, could you ever imagine backing off and daring Larry Bird to shoot? Or Kobe?
I have thoroughly enjoyed watching James grow as a player, and am curious where he’ll end up ranked in most people’s minds. I just know, he isn’t as near the top of the mountain as the media and fans often portray him to be. Not yet.