Monday, June 25, 2012

Lebron James, the Mercenary King

This makes me ill...
And just like that, the best running gag in the NBA is over. Cheering against Lebron James and the Heat these past two years has been completely engrossing. Watching them struggle out of the gate, seeing Lebron constantly melt under the spotlight, hearing his bitter post-Finals press conference last year, laughing as they endured the “good job, good effort” non-taunt; it was everything a “hater” like me could have asked for. I craved their failure.

No more.

All good things must come to an end, and, as I said, this gag has definitely ended. Lebron ensured as much when he threw down a triple-double in the biggest game of his career. In some ways (very small ways), it’s almost a relief to finally get this over with, if only because we don’t have to endure many of the senseless Lebron James debates anymore. Is Lebron a winner? Can he ever win the big one? Why won’t he take the big shot? Is his legacy ruined? These are stupid questions asked by stupid media members, and I’m quite content to be done with many of them. Even a Lebron hating dope like me knows it’s a hopeless overreaction to believe Lebron couldn’t win a title simply because he lost the last one.

As for the legacy thing, I wish I could talk to each and every idiot who claimed his legacy was forever marred by last season’s Finals. Funny how they all conveniently forget how Lebron wet his pants against Dallas now that he’s hoisting a trophy. Good call, guys!

Unfortunately, the legacy talk isn’t going away, it’s just going to change. Now we’ll be pondering where Lebron stacks up against the all time greats now that he has his ring. I cannot stress this enough: THE RING DID NOT CHANGE LEBRON JAMES. LEBRON JAMES CHANGED, AND THUS GOT THE RING. If, in an alternate universe, Miami has somehow lost the series to OKC (and that is pretty much impossible, I think), the Lebron James from that universe and the Lebron James in this universe are the exact same. There is no difference. Yet, in our results based society, you can bet the losing Lebron James would be getting roasted for being a “loser.”

But that’s not what happened. Lebron did not struggle this time around, and the Heat did not fold under pressure. As I wrote after Game 4, Lebron James “gets it,” and that’s a scary proposition for the NBA. Look at what he did to OKC, a squad that looked almost invincible heading into Game 2. He not only beat them, he slammed their collective face in a car windshield and then took their mother, Dorothy Mantooth, out to a nice seafood dinner and never called her again…and then killed some dude with a  trident!

It’s hard to know what finally toggled on Lebron’s “kill on sight” mode, but it’s clear that the switch has been flipped. I mean, just look at his shot charts from Game 2 through Game 5:

Game 2

Game 3

Game 4

Game 5

You can’t even see some of his makes because they’re all cloistered overtop each right near the basket area! And then you add in the 9.3 free throw attempts per game in that stretch, most of which were also the result of aggressive drives towards the basket…well, like I said, he “gets it.”

This is the Lebron we all knew was there, lurking deep beneath his awful beard and rapidly thinning hairline (you knew I’d get in my shots!). This is the dominating player so many touted as a mixture of Magic and MJ. And if Lebron is truly locked in for the long haul, then the league is in trouble, because this will be just the first of many trophies he’ll be lifting.

But even as I praise Lebron’s basketball abilities, and acknowledge how incredible he was in the playoffs, I will in no way congratulate him on his championship. Not because I’m bitter (maybe a little), but because it’s a cheap trophy he purchased. What the media has dubbed “The Coronation of The King” I call “The Coronation of the Mercenary King” because I haven’t forgotten what Lebron did to get here. For whatever reason, the media is treating Miami’s title as an incredible event…but why? Why is it incredible that a team with three in-their-prime superstars would win? What is shocking about that? Honestly, the most incredible thing is that they didn’t win last year as well!

The fact is that Lebron took the easy way out two years ago. I’m not saying he HAD to stay in Cleveland, but conspiring with Wade and Bosh to form a “super team” cheapens everything they accomplish. Had Lebron gone to New York and undertaken that challenge, I would still love and respect him just as much as I did before. But the fact is that he took the shortcut to greatness, and then flaunted that shortcut in everyone’s face. I haven’t forgotten that, even if everyone else has.

Someday, I’d love to ask Lebron if it was all worth it. Is the ring on his finger worth being hated? Was it worth going from to darling of the NBA to national villain? Is the sense of accomplishment existent even though he’s playing with a stacked hand? Those are probably not questions for today, but it would certainly be interesting to know how he feels after his playing days are done.

Regardless, Lebron is the best in the game, and now he’s a champion to boot. He broke the will of the Thunder, and in many ways, he’s even broken my will to cheer against him. After all, what’s the point? The title can’t be taken away from him or his teammates. Where there was a sharp urgency to see them never succeed, there’s only a dull loathing from what they’ve done. Lebron is the champ, and the gag is finally over.

Here are some other thoughts:

*Miami got 44 combined points from Mike Miller (7-8 from three!), Mario Chalmers, and Shane Battier. That’s been a series long trend for Miami – though not to that extent – and it’s maybe the biggest reason they are hoisting a trophy. OKC was supposed to have a decided advantage amongst the role players, but that wasn’t the case at all. Ibaka, Perkins, Sefalosha, and others struggled mightily, while Miami’s guys buried shot after shot.

*Can’t wait to give those max extensions to James Harden and Serge Ibaka! I’d show you their shot charts too, but it would only be a collection of X’s around the three point line (Harden) and 19 feet from the basket (Ibaka).

*It’ll be interesting to see what OKC does about Scotty Brooks. The two sides have had problems coming to a contract agreement, and it’s fair to wonder whether OKC isn’t using this as a ploy to move on. Many, including myself, have been critical of Brooks for several years now, and what happened in the Finals only seems like confirmation. So what exactly is my biggest issue with Brooks? Well, you know how everyone used to accuse John Calipari of “rolling the ball out” and not doing much actual coaching (obviously untrue)? That’s Scotty Brooks. The excessive isolations on offense, the lack of ball movement, and frequently undisciplined defensive rotations all scream “NO GAME PLAN.” And, of course, there’s the fact that his player don’t seem to understand the whole end of game fouling thing. Like I said, it wouldn’t shock me if OKC had a new coach next year.

*In case you haven’t heard someone mention this about a million times before, the refs were awful. Completely awful. I will never understand why the NBA can’t fix this issue, but a good place to start would be firing Joey Crawford. Because it’s not a good thing when I’m moaning BEFORE the game starts. And since nobody on ESPN has the guts to say this, I’ll go ahead and do it – the refs had a HUGE impact on the series. I firmly believe OKC could have totally flipped this series had the officiating been more even. So there.

*One other officiating related note. If the NBA wants to sell me that eliminating excessive whining is a “point of emphasis,” then maybe they shouldn’t let Lebron and Wade verbally assault them 50 times a game. Just a thought.


  1. 1) I see blank squares for the shot charts...I don't know if that's my computer or something else.
    2) +100 pts for quoting my favorite anchorman line. "Leave the mothers out of this...besides, I'm sure Wes here is just upset about finishing second in the rankings."

  2. Did you see that? See how Jon managed to work in a multitude of back-handed remarks in the opening of his "King LeBron" post? ;-) Very clever.

  3. Also, I would love to do a post about "Thing Casey Learned During His 1st NBA Finals"... among them: it's actually Serge Ibaka - not Sergei Baka.

  4. Casey, that's honestly the best I can do for Lebron. And congrats on Serge Ibaka!

    By the way, Bloomy, thanks for pointing out the shot charts. Definitely a problem. Can't seem to fix it. Just imagine a bunch of makes right around the basket.