I usually don’t watch much television. I just don’t have the time. But last night was a exception. Norman and I spent our evening watching game 5 of the NBA finals, in which The Golden State Warriors battled the defending champions, The Cleveland Cavaliers. The Warriors led the series, 3 games to 1 and looked to close out the series on their home court. The game started out closely as both teams stayed within single digits of one another. And while my husband and I rooted for the home team (Golden State), I couldn’t help but noticed the emphasis being placed on Cleveland hometown hero, LeBron James. It seemed that regardless of what play was being run by who, the attention mostly went to James… what he was doing right, what he should have done better; how could his team possibly compete without him for a whole 27 seconds of game time? And over the course of competition, I lost count of how many times the game announcers called him “the best player in the world.” And out of all the times I had heard that, and been slightly annoyed by it, I couldn’t help but wonder how he felt having that weight on his shoulders.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m in no way, shape, or form a LeBron James fan. Quite frankly, I think he has become the NBA golden child who gets pretty much whatever he wants, and cries if he doesn’t. No one better dare lay a finger on him or else its an automatic technical foul. However, he travels all over the court all day long and not one whistle is blown. So yea, not a fan. But I can’t help but feel a little sorry for the guy. Being labeled as “THE best player in the WORLD” can’t be easy and has to have put tremendous pressure on this dude. Earlier in his career, when he just couldn’t seem to close the deal and bring home a championship, people questioned his greatness. When he decided to “bring (his) talent to South Beach”, people labeled him a traitor, compelling many who now kiss the ground he walks on to burn his jersey in the streets. Some have even called him a “GM” of sorts, claiming he has more say on who comes to Cleveland, than even the head coach or organization do. And although, him being labeled as “The Best in the World” has mostly been done with praise and admiration, it cannot go without a little stress.
When it was widely thought that the Warriors would simply sweep the Cavs, many questioned what would become of James’ legacy. Would all his hard work and successes be for naught because he would possibly experience a second sweep in his NBA final career. It was also widely believed that he could possibly lose his “crown” if he were to go 3-5 in the NBA finals. And in the first 3 games, when James’ arguably played some of his best basketball and still came up short, some questioned whether he would have what it takes to beat a possible dynasty that is Golden State. He put everything out there and it still wasn’t enough because his team did not win. Knowing that must be hard; knowing that regardless of how many triple-doubles you average, it still isn’t enough. Regardless of how hard you might have worked at getting a solid team of stars around you to bring home another championship and how much money that cost your organization, it still just wasn’t enough. And knowing that if God forbid you might have an off night, or that if the people that share your same colors might have an off night, your legacy and possibly title of being the best in the world comes into question. And when everything you do on, and off, the court, becomes a source of speculation, it cannot be easy. Regardless of my personal feelings about the man, throughout the course of his career, thus far, I have seen how much he has grown and how humble he has in fact become. And even though I was rooting for my Warriors to bring another title to the Bay area, I couldn’t help but feel a little sorry for LeBron.
I have concluded that it doesn’t matter how many championships he wins or loses, his legacy will continue to remain in tact mostly because of the way he conducts himself. He is a hard worker; he never gives up. Even when his team was clearly going to lose last night’s game, he still gave it everything he had, even when it seemed his teammates had lost hope. He was able to bring a fervor to Cleveland unlike it had seen or felt before, giving its people a new hope. And his talent is limitless; he can play every position on the floor with ease, and his sheer size and agility make him virtually unstoppable. I respect all that he has done off the court as well, including his speaking out against police brutality in the last few years. He also sends kids, who otherwise couldn’t afford it, to college and gives back to his community. But I won’t ever call him the “best in the world” because really who can possibly live up to that? He is one of the greatest of all time, and will go down in history for all that he has done for the game. But labeling him as something that will constantly be called into question for every imperfection he might show on the court is unfair, and I refuse to do it. After all, no one’s perfect… NO ONE.
James just ended his 14th season in professional basketball, and while it is being said that we might be seeing the torch being passed from the “LeBron era”, it is clear that at 33 years old, “the King” still has a lot of spark left in his flambeau. We are entering an exciting time in the NBA, one that has probably already introduced a new and exciting rivalry. I can’t wait to see what happens next.