We are no more than two games away from LeBron James concluding his tenth season in the NBA. From the second he was introduced the world, while at St. Vincent St. Mary’s High School, the comparison to Michael Jordan, in terms of being the greatest ever, has been discussed far too much and to such an extent that it could and should be an insult to Jordan himself. James is not close to being the greatest basketball player ever, and where he belongs in comparison to the game’s greatest is difficult to figure out.
I think the biggest problem in this debate is that people see the rare athleticism, which likely sets him as the greatest athlete the NBA has ever seen, but he does not possess the complete package to be the greatest basketball player the NBA has ever seen. Before I go any further, I know there might be the thought that he has plenty of time left in the league so let it all play out before you make a comment of such certainty. I feel I can say it with such certainty because one thing will never change with James, his mental makeup.
Many thought once James got his title last year he had exorcized the demons, which have plagued him in the past, and he was going to propel himself into the stratosphere everyone was expecting since the day he stepped into the league. Fast forward to this year’s NBA Finals, those same demons from the past are once again perched on his shoulders. Games 1 through 3 James failed to reach 20 points in any of the games; something Michael Jordan never did in his entire career during the Finals. Game 4 saw LeBron finally put up a big points night, but the Heat’s victory can be equally, or even more, attributed to Dwyane Wade’s huge night and his ability to come through in crunch time to seal the game. Last night, Game 5, James broke the twenty point barrier for the second consecutive game (high five worthy?) but like I heard numerous times on ESPN today, if you tuned into basketball for the first time you would have never guessed that James was the best basketball player on the planet. For the most part in all five games, the exception possibly being Game 4, James was missing a “killer instinct” and never hesitates to defer to his teammates, even in crunch time.I might be picking at nits or skewing my views because of my general disdain for LBJ, but I think I am right on track with my evaluation of him. James’ greatest weakness, and the reason why he’ll never be one of the greatest (like Top 10) for me, is because he lacks the “killer instinct” and will to simply never lose. A player like Kobe Bryant plays with a fearlessness that we don’t see in James. Wade has the alpha dog fearlessness as well and he proved his greatness prior to LeBron’s arrival when he put up quite possibly the greatest Finals performance ever in 2006. As I think of it, I can’t identify an all-time great who doesn’t possess those qualities.
I am doing more ranting at this point so I will finish up with these questions. How many all-time great wings were defended in a manner in which the defense was willing to give an open mid to deep range shot? Why does he seemingly disappear at the end of games? What word would you use to define his career to this point?
I’ll reiterate once more, LeBron James is likely the greatest athlete we have ever seen in the NBA but in terms of greatest as a basketball player all-time he has plenty of work to do before he is mentioned with the greats, and thanks to his mental makeup I don’t think he ever gets there.