I have no problem admitting that I’ve been a snob when it comes to LeBron James. When he came into the National Basketball Association in 2003, I saw James as an extremely talented young man who would have a long career in the NBA. I also viewed him as a kid who pretty much had everything handed to him because of potential.
After his first few seasons in Cleveland, I could see that James was going to eventually be one of the greats. His size and frame were perfect for longevity in a league that was moving away from the days of dominant centers to a game driven by guards and athletic forwards. He was a match-up nightmare and was literally unstoppable on drives to the basket.
The problem I saw with James had really nothing to do with him at first because it was nothing he could control. As we are apt to do in our society, making comparisons was inevitable. Because the last great player prior to LeBron was Michael Jordan, it was only normal to compare him to James. For me, this comparison was borderline hilarious.
Jordan had won six NBA Titles and countless Most Valuable Player Awards while James had done nothing more than will his Cavaliers to the NBA Finals where they were swept by the San Antonio Spurs. Comparing him to Jordan at that point was still a futile effort led by those who despised “His Airness.”
My dislike of James grew even larger in 2010 when he was a free agent. Speculation was that James would either re-sign and stay in his hometown Cleveland or head to Miami where Dwyane Wade would welcome him for another shot at a title which Wade already had. James’ decision was in fact deemed “The Decision.”
Airing live on ESPN, James announced he was “taking his talents to South Beach” in one of the worst looking moments on television. It only furthered my dislike of him as James was just another of this generation’s “me people.”
Both James and fellow free agent Chris Bosh decided to take less money and go to Miami to join Wade and immediately, James was scorned and shunned from everyone in Ohio and across much of America for that matter. In fact, when the Heat, who were heavily favored to win the NBA Title in the first year of this trio, lost in the NBA Finals to the Dallas Mavericks, it elicited cheers throughout the land.
Since that Finals’ loss, James has returned to the Finals twice and has won two titles. His Heat are now in the Finals for the fourth straight year and are going for the rare “three-peat” and over the last few years I’ve come around.
While comparisons are indeed inevitable, the one area James lacks in my opinion is the killer instinct that Jordan was known for but I sense it coming. James has become someone to enjoy both in terms of watching him play but also when he talks.
The maturity of James as a person has been for me, as important as his maturity as a player. James has become, dare a I say, “likable?” While battling the antics of Lance Stephenson during the Eastern Conference Finals, James said all the right things which who knows if would have done eight years ago?
Whether James ever gets to six titles as Jordan did is now a moot point in my opinion because it’s just simply too difficult to compare different eras, but regardless, James has created his own niche. This is something I’ve gladly accepted.