2010-2011 Player Profile: LeBron James
The hate we’ve heaped on LeBron James casts a long shadow. LeBron James is ready to step out into the light. I’ll explain.
Let’s go back. May 13th. Game 6. Cleveland Cavaliers v. Boston Celtics. On that fateful night, two important things happened:
1.) When that buzzer rang, a domino fell, setting off a chain reaction that will affect the NBA for at least the next decade.
2.) I realized LeBron James is Shaquille O’Neal.
For their first 7 seasons, LeBron James and Shaquille O’Neal failed to reach the lofty expectations NBA fans, and society at large, had for them.
Each player made one Finals in their first 7 years, only to be decimated by their opponent (LeBron swept by Spurs in ‘07. Shaq swept by Rockets in ‘95). Each player then followed up their aforementioned Finals beating with crushing Conference Finals losses (LeBron lost to Orlando in ‘09 ECF and Boston in ‘10 ECF. Shaq swept by the Bulls in ‘96 ECF and the Jazz ‘98 WCF)
Each player was extremely popular with young fans, and the life of the party on their own team. LeBron took team pictures and danced every chance he got. Shaq did that Omega Psi Phi fraternity thing, and put his teammates in his music videos. Outstanding.
For seven seasons, both were criticized for not taking their careers seriously. LeBron lost, refused to shake hands with Orlando, then showed up a couple days later wearing his own MVP shirt (because, really, it’s all about those MVPs). Shaq got beat, and put Superman logos on everything he owned, including a custom made conversion van/sub-woofer on wheels.
LeBron wants to be the global icon. Shaq had TWiSM (The World is Mine).
Shaq was/LeBron is considered roundly unstoppable. Not just great, each player completely changed the complexion of the games they played in. When Shaq was in the post, your defense crumbled. When he had two feet in the paint, you were cooked. If LeBron is isolated in a 1-4 set, the defense is in terror. If he starts to drive, well, you’re best to foul him early.
Each even had a single chink in their offensive armor. Shaq’s FT percentage. Bron’s post game. “If he just got that down, there’d be no way to stop him…” Ever heard that before about either of these guys?
Freaks. Abnormal. Beasts. You pick. They all apply.
Each used a combination of size, speed, power and finesse never before seen in this league.
For crying out loud - why were any of us surprised James left Cleveland? Shaq left Orlando for dead.
Now that we’ve established a borderline preposterous number of parallels between these two, it’s important, for our profiling purposes, to look at what happened in Shaq’s 8th season, so that we may prognosticate LeBron’s 2010-2011.
Anybody remember ‘99-‘00 Shaquille O’Neal? As a Laker fan, I remember him well. The guy was an absolute monster truck. It was the peak of his criticism. Too many people told him he couldn’t do it, and Shaq started piling up the body bags. Diesel lead the league in both shooting percentage, 57% from the field, and scoring, 29.7 per game. He was second in rebounds with 13.6 per, third in blocks with 3 per, and threw in an average of 3.8 each game for good measure. As far as I’m concerned, that Laker squad could beat any team in the history of basketball because Shaquille O’Neal was so utterly dominant.
Well, that’s what we’ll see from LeBron James this season. I expect him to make us all shudder. I expect monster truck.
The worst thing that happened to the NBA this offseason was not “The Decision.” It’s that we made LeBron James care. He would have spent the rest of his life wearing MVP t-shirts, choreographing pre-game rituals and assuming he was the best player in the league because his childhood friends/business associates told him so.
But no. We had to hate him, and now he cares. Good job, everybody.
Remember how you felt when LeBron smashed the Pistons, in arguably his greatest performance ever? Well, that’s what we’re all bringing back. I’m telling you, Lebron killing someone is not out of the question. I’m talking about him dunking on somebody, and that person actually dying.
I hated LeBron’s “Decision,” in part because it was a world-class screw-up wrapped in a wretched PR nightmare, but mainly because LeBron quit trying to be the Greatest of All-Time. Then it occurred to me, as I watched his training camp workouts, and early preseason…what if he didn’t? We all assume LeBron’s numbers will take a hit from sharing the spotlight, costing him the “Greatest” title. But what if they don’t? What if his numbers go up? What if he gets better? If anybody can do it…
Whether you like it or not, LeBron is probably ahead of any other player, at this stage of his career. He’s certainly the most physically gifted I’ve ever seen. Monster. Truck.
So, here’s the gameplan everybody. Follow my lead.
You’re the King, Lebron. A real MVP. Nothing to prove here…
Now go take shelter.