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Saturday, June 22, 2013

Why I Hate LeBron James--And I Don't Care If You Do Either

In the wake of the Miami Heat's second consecutive NBA Championship, I had prepared a very nasty post concerning one LeBron James.

And although I am going to tone down some of that rhetoric, I will explain why I don't like the so called 'chosen one.' Not that I need to defend myself to the LeBron Apologists, who believe everyone should be a fan. That they should bow before his greatness, as if he has somehow found the cure for cancer or AIDS.

No, to me LeBron has become more hated than the Pittsburgh Steelers, John Elway, Art Modell, and Ray Lewis combined. Anyone who knows even the slightest about Cleveland Browns' football understands why that is such a huge statement.

LeBron Apologists will say get over The Decision, it's more than time to move on. I say LeBron Apologists get over yourselves. Basketball is a team game, and LeBron has chosen himself over the team. Drafted by Cleveland at the age of 18, he was expected to lead the Cavaliers to greatness they had never seen before. And although he didn't get them there, it wasn't for a lack of trying.

Or was it? A Cavs team that had been hand picked by LeBron himself--the decision to let Carlos Boozer go, the acquistion of first Damon Jones, then Mo Williams, and later Antwan Jamison--were all moves that had been rubber stamped by the 'King' (makes me sick even saying that) himself. Even the decision to hire Mike Brown as head coach--essentially a James yes man--was an indirect sign of the influence this man had over the Cleveland front office. Yet, at the end of the day, the only thing the Cavs would have to show for themselves was a 0-4 NBA Finals sweep by the San Antonio Spurs in 2007.

LeBron Apologists will point to the fact there have been other great players to earn championships after leaving their original teams. Shaquille O'Neal, Clyde Drexler, Kevin Garnett are three of the most recent examples. Yet none of these players left their original teams with nearly the fanfare that surrounded James. I'm also pretty sure that before they left town they also thanked the fans for supporting them--something the 'Chosen One' has yet to do for the city of Cleveland (an apology would be nice, too.) And once they got to their new destination, they didn't talk about the number of rings they would win---they just went out and won them.

Then there is the whole  post game interview where James emphatically states " I'm from Akron, Ohio (the inner city)--I'm not even supposed to be here." Give me a break. You're six foot eight inches tall, blessed with natural quickness and a leaping ability that most guys would die for, and have been told you would be great probably since you were 10 years old. I don't think you'll get an ounce of sympathy from me. There are a lot of other people in the world that have overcome a lot longer odds than you have.

But the biggest issue I have with LeBron is the way he helped form the current Miami Heat team. Got together with his buddies Chris and Dwyane and asked them in the middle of the night if they all wanted to play together. Of the three aforementioned individuals who were also high profile free agents, I am certain none of them got to rubber stamp their teammates before they moved to their new location. In fact the struggles between Shaq and Kobe in Los Angeles have been well documented. But each player put aside their personal differences, at least for a little while, in interest of the greater good of the team. To me that is the true definition of being the ultimate team player. Do you honestly think Michael Jordan agreed with every decision that the then Chicago Bulls GM Jerry Krause made?

LeBron Apologists will say this is all stupid, I need to get over myself. I say get a life. Quit putting hero worship on an individual who clearly values his own legacy before the team. A man who, despite making millions upon millions of dollars doing something he loves, needs an entourage of yes men calling him 'The Chosen One' and 'King James.'  Do you honestly think the man really cares if you root for him? I don't remember him thanking the fans once during the whole Game 7 post game interview that has since circled the internet a million times over.

I'll acknowledge that what he has done is impressive. And if he wins another title next year, he may be among the top five players all-time, maybe top three. But he has a long way to go to win my support back. In fact, I am not sure there is much he could do at this point that would change my mind.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Tim Duncan: Last of the Dominant Big Men?

As everyone prepares for Game 5 of the NBA Finals tonight, I 'd like to take this opportunity to acknowledge one of the greatest to ever play the game.

That's right folks, I am talking about none other than Timothy Duncan, power forward for the Western Conference Champion San Antonio Spurs.

In fact, regardless of whether the Spurs win or lose this series, we may be seeing the end of the dominant big man era in basketball.

Duncan, drafted No.1 overall by San Antonio out of Wake Forest(and perhaps the last college senior to ever be the first overall pick), would have an immediate impact for the Spurs as a rookie, averaging 21 points, 11 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks per game. The following year, a lockout shortened season, the Spurs would win their first ever NBA Championship. Since that time, the Spurs have won three more titles, and they are currently working on their fifth ring.

As the years have gone by, Duncan has quietly gone about his business. And the hardware has kept piling up. He's been selected to the All-Star game 14 times. He's won the league MVP twice, and been named Finals MVP three times. If he wins a fifth ring this June, he will join Kobe Bryant as two of the most decorated superstars of their generation. As a big man, he will trail only the legendary Bill Russell of the Boston Celtics in that category.

And once he retires, it might signal the end of the dominant big man era in professional basketball. It has already become very transparent that teams don't need a big man to succeed in today's NBA, and Dwight Howard has proved with the Lakers that sometimes it can even be a detriment.

Sure there will be people who point to Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert as the changing of the guard. And he had a nice little performance in the Eastern Conference Finals. But until he consistently perform at the level he had during this season, I would say it's premature to call him a dominant big man.

Others would point to Kevin Love and Blake Griffin as examples of dominant bigs. To that, I say call me when either one of those individuals' teams advance beyond the first round of the playoffs. And don't even get me started on Griffin. Let's just say you need to be able to do more than dunk to be considered dominant.

Then there is last year's No. 1 overall pick, Anthony Davis from the University of Kentucky. Considered the best player in college basketball two years ago, someday he might develop into an all-star. Never mind that Duncan played at an All-Star level in his very first season with San Antonio. There will be other big men drafted No. 1 overall, no doubt, but it will be interesting to see what kind of an impact these kids will ultimately have in the league.

Detractors will point to the fact that Duncan has always had a tremendous supporting cast, including Hall of Famer David Robinson, Tony Parker, Sean Elliot, and Manu Ginobli among others. Yet those people also haven't followed the Spurs all that closely, either. Duncan has made each one of those players better the moment he stepped onto the court as a rookie in 1997. Nor can they truly appreciate the on court battles he did with the likes of Shaq, Dirk Nowitski, Dikembe Mutombo and others.

So whether the Spurs win or lose, enjoy the performance that Tim Duncan has put on throughout this postseason, and his career. We may never see one like it again.