That thought is probably running through LeBron James’ head right now (after the Celtics finished off the Cavs in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals despite LeBron’s 45 points). LeBron is possibly the greatest athlete who ever lived. His combination of size, strength, speed, quickness, agility, and jumping ability is unmatched by any athlete in any sport that I have ever seen. Combine that with his natural passing ability (only a handful of basketball players see the floor as well or better: Chris Paul, Steve Nash, Deron Williams…that might be it), and he is the most talented basketball player ever. Jordan, Magic, Wilt, Shaq; none of these guys had as much pure ability as LeBron. Now I’m not saying LeBron is better than those guys, but he is likely headed in that direction. He needs to improve on the defensive end and is not yet consistent with his outside jump shot; but assuming that he eventually will become a deadeye like Jordan evolved into, he will be unstoppable. There are only two ways to stop LeBron now: play off him several feet and hope that he takes a jumper and misses, or throw multiple defenders at him and let LeBron throw a perfect pass to a wide open teammate who then proceeds to miss an easy shot.
And that brings us to the main point of this post. CAN WE PLEASE GET LEBRON SOME HELP? I do not say this as a Cavs fan because I am not really a Cavs fan. I say this as a fan of the game of basketball (although the NBA pales in comparison to college hoops). LeBron is my favorite player to watch because he is one of the smartest players around and is also guaranteed to make one freakishly athletic play per game. Yet I am practically in pain watching LeBron play with zombies like Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Ben Wallace. Here we have the most dynamic basketball player in the world and he’s teamed up with two painfully slow big men (sorry Ben, you used to be great but you are past your prime). Just imagine if LeBron and Steve Nash were traded a few years ago. Now LeBron is getting to play with crazy good athletes (Stoudamire, Marion, Barbosa) who can actually run with him and finish his assists. LeBron would have averaged 30 points and 15 assists with those teammates. Would Nash even have come close to winning two MVPs with his new team? I don’t think so. Let’s not forget that we are switching coaches too. Mike Brown is considered a defensive guru…umm, every NBA offense is basically the same: ball screens and isolations in the post. You would think that after the two days it takes to learn how to defend those two things, Brown would come up with an offensive philosophy other than “everybody get out of LeBron’s way.”
I am not upset about the Celtics beating the Cavs because I am a Cavs fan. I am upset because another season has gone by where the most exciting player has been surrounded be teammates that in no way compliment his skills. I am upset because I get to watch Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant shoot turnaround jumpers for the next few weeks (on second thought I won’t watch). Instead I’ll be hoping the Cavs draft Chris Douglas-Roberts in the next draft so that the most exciting NBA player can be joined by the most exciting college player. But until then, I am left with the sickening thought that we are wasting the prime years of the best athlete I have ever seen.