LeBron may be talented, but his personality upstages his famed on-the-court prowess

I admit it. I’m a passionate member of the LeBron James Haters Association (LJHA), a not-so-exclusive club that opens its doors to all of those who have some sort of grievance with LeBron James–the unauthentic man, the self-consumed global icon, the most talented basketball player in the world.

I just don’t like how he carries himself. LeBron comes across as fake, insensitive and emotionally unappealing. Yes, if you’re playing in the cutthroat NBA, then you obviously possess a requisite amount of self-confidence that may come across as arrogance. Michael Jordan was an absolute killer between the lines. He searched out petty bulletin board material to gain a competitive advantage, and often yelled at his teammates (and fought them in practice, if deemed necessary) to motivate them and himself.

The Michaels, Magics and Larrys of the world see sporting events in only one way: I want to beat you and the ends will justify the means, however ruthless and maniacal they may be.

So, LeBron’s supreme confidence in his basketball abilities helped him succeed–and it continues to help him in 2013. I just don’t like the ways in which it manifests himself. The “Chosen One” tattoo on his back? I still don’t like it. Riding a bicycle with a “King James” inscription to a home game? That nickname never ceases to rub me the wrong way. Flexing, dancing, mocking, taunting and showboating–all of which have been toned down considerably since LeBron’s days in Cleveland (I must admit), but irritate me when they do show themselves in Miami–point to a lack of respect for the game.

I grow irrationally hostile when LeBron does an ESPN interview or holds a press conference because I know that he’ll come off as both cocky and frustratingly inarticulate, an undesirable combination of “I’m much better than you” and mumbling, bumbling mannerisms. “Yeah, I just wanted to come out aggressive and do my thing early,” he’ll say. Aggressive this. Aggressive that. Granted, putting “aggressive” on repeat represents an affliction that has spread around the entire basketball league, so I don’t expect LeBron to be some noble outlier of eloquent expression. I just hope that the face of the NBA can offer some even more valuable insight into his athletic performance than “coming out aggressive” each and every night.

The Michaels, Magics and Larrys were capable. Just listen to them talk about the game. I expect the same of LeBron James.

With that all being said, my problems with LeBron James definitely haven’t made me blind to his on-the-court wizardry during this season. He has been nothing short of transcendent and the credit must be attributed to his willingness to change and improve. The 2013 LeBron James shoots less three-pointers, posts up more and finally feels comfortable in his own skin–this last condition is by far the most important, even though LeBron’s altered shot chart has undoubtedly bumped up his offensive efficiency. He now unceasingly punishes his defenders with his superior physical tools, which enables him to convert an uncanny number of shot attempts at the rim. But, dominating the paint wouldn’t be possible if LeBron didn’t finally realize that nobody could guard him within fifteen feet.

LeBron shoots over 73 percent when he’s near the basket, according to NBA.com–an extraordinary percentage that leads the league by a considerable margin. No longer does he chuck ill-advised, contested jumpers from the perimeter, à la Rudy Gay and Josh Smith. LeBron finishes virtually everything around the basket, rebounds with the best of them and racks up more assists per game than most starting point guards.

There are absolutely no holes in his game, so LJHA members like me better hope that the Skip Bayless types (pundits who attempt to illuminate LeBron’s deficiencies) are right—the logic being that LeBron is mentally weak and doesn’t handle the pressures of big games very well, and so on and so on. We better hope that 2013 LeBron will revert back to passive, disinterested and uncomfortable LeBron, circa 2010-11, because this version is downright scary. Unless the 2011 NBA Finals debacle happens all over again, the ceiling for this guy appears to be unfathomable. There’s absolutely nothing else stopping him from winning four, five, six, seven, maybe eight NBA titles.

Kevin Durant has improved exponentially over time and continues a marvelous season of his own, but he will have to surprise us all in order to derail LeBron in his quest for more rings and further validation. A spacious gap remains, just as Durant separates himself from the next best player in the world. There’s nothing that LeBron can’t do on a basketball court, unless I’m missing something entirely.

Heck, he shoots a little bit over 41 percent from behind the arc on roughly three attempts per game, according to NBA.com. Kevin Durant shoots pretty much the same percentage, slightly above 42 percent on a similar number of attempts. That says it all. LeBron James and Kevin Durant are statistically comparable in a category that Durant should dominate. What can’t LeBron do out there? I’m left reaching for something–any tiny little thing–to criticize him. For as much as LeBron’s demeanor bothers me, I fully understand that I should appreciate his excellence on the basketball court. “Once in a generation” can mean several different things, but the Miami Heat superstar is surely one example.

Write him in for 27/7/7 (points, rebounds, assists) every single night. Write him in for a couple of rim-rattling highlights and a rare show of elite court vision. Write him in for several “Well, if he’s going to make that, then there’s nothing you can do to stop him” moments. Each and every night. The word LeBron is synonymous with a flashy sort of consistency, what you get when an embarrassment of physical riches intertwines with a commitment to using them on a nightly basis. Watching LeBron James play basketball is unlike anything else in the world—even Lionel Messi running with a soccer ball at his feet pales in comparison to a Dwyane Wade-to-LeBron James alley-oop in transition.

Please be right, Skip. Me and the rest of the LJHA don’t want to see four, five, six, seven, maybe eight NBA titles. I have nothing but respect for Lebron’s on-court production this season (and basically over his entire career), but respecting him and liking him are still two completely different things.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *