the chosen one vs. the inferior one (part 2)
So, what does all of this really mean? After having helped guide his teams to the past five NBA Finals appearances with two different teams, it is impossible not to look at LeBron as one of the most important basketball players of all-time. The guy can play the game at an extremely high level, and does things most players could never dream of doing. However, hasn’t it always seemed like people came to expect these things from him on the court? James has always been one of the most critiqued athletes in history, but was much of that due to the vindication effect? Were some of his shaky interviews and business decisions tied in as well?
Well, if you are labeled “The Chosen One” and it is tattooed on your body, then you better be pulling some Neo from the Matrix type shit out there. But, LeBron’s run in Cleveland ended as the biggest disappointment in modern sports history, and when he left for South Beach, that vindication effect started to really shed its own light. James had to prove that he could win NBA championships, because most of the greats always do. If you’re an NBA fan, it comes with the territory, and there is a shared secret between the all-time greats in that respect. While reading Bill Simmons’ excellent The Book of Basketball, he discusses what the former Detroit Piston, Isiah Thomas, had to say about “The Secret of Basketball.”
In this segment, Thomas states, “The secret of basketball is that it’s not about basketball.” Certain players don’t always mesh well with one another, the perfect offense might not always work in a hostile environment with everything on the line, attitudes and egos can quickly ruin a team, and so on and so forth. If you’ve played basketball, you know exactly what Thomas is referencing. Hell, even in pickup games, it never really is about basketball. It’s usually a combination of the team that has the best chemistry, the most drive and the willingness to win the game. Yes, it is even that apparent at open gyms, 3-on-3 tournaments, youth leagues and more. According to Thomas, it is also that apparent at the highest level, and I don’t think I have ever agreed with a statement any more so than that of “The Secret.”
When examining LeBron James, the most coveted and highly touted high school basketball player in modern history, it seemed like Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary’s team understood “The Secret.” They worked their way towards a national championship, beating the best teams in the country along the way, and were doing things high school teams had never accomplished before them.
Even after one of the biggest upsets in high school basketball history during LeBron’s junior season, they still bounced back and took the nation by storm. But, magic can only last so long. In the real world, magic (which does exist), has a timeline. Unlike the Hogwarts world, real world magic usually comes to a crashing halt. In Cleveland, the magic that was LeBron against the Detroit Pistons in his first “Michael Jordan-esque game,” was one of the most exciting sports events I’ve ever watched in my life. I’ll never forget it, sitting in the basement with my Dad and rewinding the TV to see if what we were witnessing was actual reality. It was truly a site to be seen:
Re-watching those highlights, I forgot how many times he helped Cleveland take the lead, tie the game, take the lead again, and then finally win the game on a layup with 02.6 seconds left to play in 2OT. It was starting to feel like “The Chosen One” was an actual possibility. Cleveland would eventually advance to the NBA Finals against the San Antonio Spurs, and if you thought they had a shot in hell, well, you just weren’t watching enough basketball at the time. They had less than a shot, and Cleveland’s dream season came crashing to an end with a 4–0 loss at the hands of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. However, the future was bright and Cleveland would eventually return to the Finals to avenge their loss and bring the city its first championship. Except that never happened, and if you read Part 1, you’d know that the pressure and expectations seem to get to James and those Cavaliers teams, and that dream title never panned out.
For all the criticisms LeBron endured about his lack of a ‘killer instinct’ and his tendencies to pass the ball during crunch time, the joy that was the regular season 66–16, ‘08-’09 Cleveland Cavaliers, never transformed into the exciting NBA Champion that fans were expecting. Fans were robbed of a Kobe vs. LeBron NBA Finals, when Cleveland’s gas ran out against Orlando in the Eastern Conference Finals, and the next season (LeBron’s last in Cleveland) in Boston. It was a sad site to see, and once that jersey came off, I knew that LeBron had his sites set elsewhere around the league.
Throughout life, people change. Their personalities might not alter too much, but their personal lives do. People close to you get married, have kids, move away; you know how the story goes. It happens to everyone and when you sit back and give it some thought, there is some sadness affiliated with change. Sure, change is exciting and an integral aspect of being a human, but we all miss the “good times” that our brains remember with friends and loved ones. There are certain moments you can never get back, and for some, that nostalgia can be too much to handle at times. It’s as if we go through life never fully grasping the changes occurring, or the people entering and exiting our vivid chapter books.
Often, it feels as if these events and people are jumbled together and share no inner-connectedness with one another. However, your story and the people you meet and the events that occur are what make you; it just takes ample time for that story to really start developing. With LeBron James in Cleveland, this fairy tale didn’t have its storybook ending. But, what if it was just a difficult part of the book that most people chose to skip, anyway? Who knows. That could be true. It could be a massive cliche. Either way, a few seasons after LeBron’s performance against Detroit, South Beach (with D. Wade & Bosh) happened, and the NBA would never be the same again.
To Be Continued...