They say history is kinder to those who are great. I’d venture to say that is purely because over time we no long drown ourselves in the minute details. That holds particularly true with the modern athlete. The modern athlete is under a 1000 meg microscope. Every move, every tweet, every late night rendezvous is being stalked by the internet world as writers and media everywhere await the opportunity to be the first to jump on a story without regard to how redundant or innocuous the story may be.
“HOT SPORTS HEADLINE! Johnny Manziel hits toilet seat while pissing, more on this at the top of the hour!”
We view athletes thru a prism; one we created with rose colored lenses. We exalt our past heroes and dare our currents ones to live up to the divine red carpet that’s been rolled out. Today’s athlete can’t win; too flawed to be great and not old enough to bring about nostalgia. In truth had most any athlete of our golden age been under the type of microscope that today’s athlete is those same rose colored bifocals would have been stripped away and cast into a pit while we scream “This is Sparta!!!” No modern athlete epitomizes this struggle more than LeBron James.
LeBron as an athlete and as a basketball player is breathtakingly fantastic and by all accounts he may be even better as a man and as a father. LeBron has proven to be intelligent, genuine, and someone who really loves and respects the game of basketball. All qualities I’d like to think we’d admire. In fact the only real knocks on LeBron James are that “Decision” bull crap, which he has apologized for on numerous occasions (also it raised a few million dollars for his hometown Boys and Girls Club might I add) and that throw-up-in-your-mouth-worthy Miami Heat intro “Not one… Not two..”, which was 1, not entirely farfetched seeing as they’ve been to the NBA Finals four times in four years and 2, that was for the Miami Heat fans not us. Hyperbole sells season tickets not pessimistic melancholy (its ok Minnesota fans it’ll all be over in a bit…)
With LeBron we focus too often on what he isn’t and seem to completely miss the point of what he is. So what he doesn’t have that psychopathic desire not to lose like MJ or that he doesn’t score the same ways that Kobe does. His value is in being ruthlessly calculated. LeBron is strategic and efficient. Take for example the play at the end of Game 5 in the Eastern Conference Finals vs Indiana. LeBron drives and kicks it out to Bosh for a good look at a three point shot Bosh misses and LeBron is the goat for not selfishly taking a less efficient shot over the outstretched arms of 7-foot Roy Hibbert. Yep, that makes total sense. He made the same play to beat Brooklyn in the previous round, only that time Bosh managed to hit the shot. LeBron’s game is constant calculations. Deeming which is the best play to make at the best time based on percentages all this happening in his mind as warp speed. The NBA’s version of a TI-89. I imagine that if LeBron and Bill Russell sat down for an honest televised talk the conversation both go way over our heads and make us understand everything about basketball. I’m not a fan of the Heat by any stretch of the imagination, but I am a fan of great basketball and LeBron personifies that to the tee.
So for once can we stop fixating on his draw backs, yes hairline included, and just relax and appreciate the opportunity we have to watch greatness at its peak. Even if it’s a different type of greatness because when it’s all said and done, your kids and their kids won’t remember a thing about “The Decision” but, they will know if he caught Michael in rings, Kareem in Points, Magic in popularity and if he lived up to his moniker as “The King”. -Glass ¤
Photo Credit “Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images”