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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

LeBron James Asks, "What Should I Do?"

In his newest TV commercial, LeBron James asks, "What should I do?" Instead of being interviewed by a real journalist who would ask serious questions, James prefers to either deal with a shill like Jim Gray or else have his message condensed into a 90 second propaganda video created by his shoe company's marketers--but here are some answers to James' rhetorical question.

Before dealing with what James should do, the real issue is what James should have done several months ago:

1) The first thing is that he should not have quit during the pivotal game five of last season's Boston-Cleveland playoff series. Legitimate opportunities to win a championship are precious and should not be taken for granted. While it is reasonable to expect that James' Miami Heat will win at least 60 games this season and seriously contend for the NBA title it is also entirely possible that James will never again play for a team that wins 66 and 61 games in consecutive seasons. Game five winners when a series is tied 2-2 advance more than 80% of the time, yet James played like he could not wait for game five (and the series itself) to be over--it looked like James cared a lot more about hyping up his impending free agent status than trying to lead his current team to a championship. That is just disgraceful.

2) The second thing is that he should have followed the advice of NBA Commissioner David Stern to not turn the free agency period into a three ring circus. Under the collective bargaining agreement, James and every other unrestricted free agent had the right to sign with any team in the league. The Cavaliers had the right to offer James the most money and the Cavaliers had also proven that they were willing and able to surround James with a quality supporting cast, a unit that was talented enough to post the best record in the league two years in a row. When James decided that he preferred to join his buddies in Miami he should have first privately called Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert and then James should have simply held a press conference to announce the news. Instead, James hijacked ESPN--a network that sold out any last vestiges of journalistic integrity and/or neutrality--for a one hour telecast dedicated to venerating James' overdeveloped ego. The only thing more pathetic than the "Decision" is James' suggestion that he did it to benefit children and that he would be willing to accept any amount of criticism in order to help children; James did not donate his own money to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America but rather insisted that ESPN donate all advertising revenues from the broadcast. How generous of James to "donate" someone else's money in exchange for being provided a one hour infomercial focusing on his greatness and importance!

Looking forward, what James should do now is make sure that he has his priorities in order. James has boldly declared that he joined forces with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh not to win just one championship but to capture multiple titles. That means that, based on his own publicly stated standard, any season in which the Heat do not win a championship is a failure. Championships are won by defensive-minded teams that understand the importance of selflessness. James is the Heat's best player, so he must set the tone for the Heat to be a defensive-minded, unselfish team. It has become a cliche to refer to James as a Magic Johnson-type player but that is a very flawed comparison; James is one of the most dynamic scorers in NBA history and even though he is a skilled passer he is most certainly not a pass-first player the way that Magic was: during his career James has averaged 27.8 ppg, 20.8 FGA/g, 9.0 FTA/g and 6.9 apg while Magic averaged 19.5 ppg, 13.2 FGA/g, 6.5 FTA/g and 11.2 apg. James' ratio of shot attempts (FGA plus FTA) to passes (which we can roughly estimate by assist totals, though such totals should not be considered definitive) is much more similar to scorers like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant than it is to truly pass-first players like Magic Johnson and Jason Kidd.

James must prove that he is more interested in playing in a way that results in playoff success as opposed to simply playing in a way that augments his individual statistics. What does that mean exactly? There is no better example than the amazing impact that Kobe Bryant has had on Pau Gasol's career and legacy; before the Lakers acquired Gasol he was a one-time All-Star who had not led his team to a single playoff win in six seasons but in less than three years the perception of Gasol has completely changed: he has made the All-NBA Team twice, earned two All-Star selections and seems to be on track to earn Hall of Fame consideration once his career is over. Gasol's skill set did not fundamentally change since he joined the Lakers and his statistics have only markedly improved in two areas: field goal percentage and offensive rebounding. Gasol has shot better and grabbed more offensive rebounds largely because of the extra defensive attention that Bryant draws and Gasol has become a tougher, more dedicated player because of the standard that Bryant sets in the weight room and on the practice court.

Chris Bosh is a far more decorated and accomplished player now than Gasol was three years ago. Will playing alongside James (and Wade) have a similar impact on Bosh's efficiency and his legacy? The "stat gurus" generally insist that James and Wade are the two best players in the NBA, so it will be very interesting to see if the two of them combined can have a fraction of the positive impact on Bosh (and the rest of the Heat) that Bryant has had on Gasol (and role players such as Trevor Ariza and Shannon Brown).

Former Cleveland Coach Mike Brown received a lot of criticism for his supposedly unimaginative offense, even though the Cavs ranked third in field goal percentage in 2009-10 en route to posting the league's best record. It is ironic that during long stretches of James' first game with Miami the Heat looked like--paraphrasing TNT analyst Kevin McHale's words--Cleveland South, only with a supporting cast that did not have as many good shooters as the Cavs did. I am not going to overreact to one game; I fully expect the Heat to win at least 60 games and to most likely have the best record in the league. However, if even after Wade becomes fully healthy and Miami's team chemistry improves the team's main offensive set involves James dribbling around until he decides to either launch an off-balance shot or make a pass that he deems likely to earn him an assist (as opposed to a pass that facilitates ball movement and team play) then people will have to open their minds to the possibility that the issue is not coaching but rather that James prefers--or can only function in--an offense that features him dominating the ball.

Phil Jackson's teams have won 11 of the last 20 NBA championships. Think about that for a moment--one coach has captured more than half of the titles over a span of two decades! Jackson has been blessed to coach arguably the two greatest shooting guards in NBA history plus a host of other talented greats including Shaquille O'Neal, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman but one of the main reasons for Jackson's unprecedented success is that he is not afraid to challenge his superstars. Part of the way that Jackson challenges great players is by insisting that they play within what Jordan derided as an "equal opportunity" system, namely the Triangle Offense. Jackson had to convince both Jordan and Bryant that even though they could create their own shots at any time the only way to win a championship is to have a framework that involves the other four players and makes them offensive threats. Sure, Jordan and Bryant can make bailout shots when the Triangle breaks down but by having proper spacing and by instilling confidence in role players the Triangle enabled guys like John Paxson, Steve Kerr, Robert Horry and Derek Fisher to knock down clutch shots when opposing defenses threw multiple defenders at Jordan or Bryant. Is LeBron James willing and able to play in an offensive system that brings out the best in his teammates even if it negatively impacts his individual statistics?

While the Magic Johnson-LeBron James comparison is bogus, it is valid to compare LeBron James to Oscar Robertson. Many people may not realize that during Robertson's prime he was criticized in some quarters for dominating the ball; Robertson did not make it to the NBA Finals, let alone win a championship, until he teamed up with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (then known as Lew Alcindor) and accepted a less dominant role. Of course, at that stage of their respective careers it was clear that Abdul-Jabbar was a better player than Robertson, while James is clearly the best player on the Heat; it is not realistic to expect James to defer to inferior players--nor would that even be in the Heat's best interest--but if the Heat are going to win playoff series against veteran laden teams like the Magic, Celtics and Lakers then James is going to have to figure out how to get the best out of all of his teammates.

So, the answer to James' question is simple (but perhaps not easy): he needs to shift his focus from becoming a "global icon" (whatever that means) and from trying to manufacture a certain kind of public image (a process that worked well for several years but imploded horribly this summer) to changing his game from statistically impressive to championship caliber.

The question for James is whether his legacy is going to consist of successfully emulating the championship substance of Jordan and Bryant or if it is going to consist of flashy highlights, regrettable soundbites and some carefully crafted commercials.

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posted by David Friedman @ 6:14 AM

24 comments

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24 Comments:

At Wednesday, October 27, 2010 9:48:00 AM, Anonymous Stephen said...

Someone pointed out that Kobe had a similar commercial around '06 when he was trying to "fix" his image.

One thing popped out to me when watching Kobe's commercial juxtaposed with LeBron's: 100% of Kobe's commercial was him training or practicing (minus a few intense camera stares); LeBron's included actual basketball for six seconds out of 1:31.

 
At Wednesday, October 27, 2010 9:49:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sharp

David, I think its very appropriate that you compared him to Oscar Robertson, given recent comments on James by the Big O.

Robertson apparently thinks Charles Barkley is talking nonsense when he says that comparing James to Jordan is ridiculous, stating that Lebron is "in a class of his own."

Personally, I find Barkley to have a much better perspective as he was a contemporary of Jordan, and actually played in the modern era. Robertson has been retired for nearly 40 years now. Even Bob Cousy admitted that the skill level truly erupted starting in the 1980's.

I don't know enough about Robertson to say that he could have been a superstar today, but one thing I can say is that he was considered a big guard at the time, being 6'5 and 215. But that's about the same size as Deron Williams now (a point guard) and Dwyane Wade (an undersized to guard). And I seriously doubt he had the agility/speed/overall athleticism they did, based on what footage I have seen. Barkley, on the other hand, is someone I've seen a lot of over the years, and the mere fact that he excelled as an undersized big man in a more physical era tells you he'd have no problem now. It's somewhat ironic, given his criticism of Lebron, but James reminds me a lot of Barkley in the way he attacks the basket.

But as it stands, I don't know how Robertson can place him above Jordan at all. An objective look a the two indicates pretty clearly that Mike was better at every aspect of the game not involving athleticism. Better rebounder for his height/build, better shooter, better body control, smarter passer (something I know you can appreciate), better ball handler, etc. Jordan was in a completely different universe than James is in as a man defender, and was also the better help defender (although Michael played much of his career with the benefit of hand checking). Same goes for Jordan's natural instincts and decision making.

When I was looking at exactly what it was that made Michael Jordan truly better than Lebron (mostly the instincts/decision making) I also realized this is what really separates Kobe from James. Lebron has always been able to take advantage of his considerable athletic gifts and use he to win, and there's nothing wrong with that. The problem is, because of his limited skill set, when a team is able to eliminate those advantages (as great defensive teams like the Celtics have been able to do), James becomes significantly less effective.

The reason Bryant continues to win that debate (at least in my eyes) is that he can always figure out a way to beat a team, because he has a superior understanding of the game, and can take advantage of his more extensive skill set.

 
At Wednesday, October 27, 2010 2:21:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Stephen:

You are right; Kobe's "Love me or hate me" commercial consisted entirely of footage of Kobe working out/practicing and the message focused entirely on Kobe's game.

 
At Wednesday, October 27, 2010 2:37:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Sharp:

I have great respect for Robertson both as a player and for his understanding of the game but I think that at times his judgment is clouded because he is so upset that the general consensus has elevated Jordan above him in the basketball pantheon. LeBron has not established himself as a greater player than Kobe, let alone as a greater player than MJ, but Robertson never seems to miss a chance to suggest that MJ is not the greatest player ever. I actually agree with Robertson that MJ should not necessarily be considered by acclamation the greatest player ever but I disagree with the way that Robertson sometimes makes that case.

Robertson would be a great player in any era and I would certainly take him over Deron Williams (who really is not as big as Robertson was in his prime--Robertson was a legit 6-5, 220+ during his playing days while DWill is 6-3 at most and probably a little heavier than 200) but my point in this article is that as great as Robertson was his style of play during his prime may not have been ideally suited to winning championships; I am fully aware that a counterargument could be made that Robertson had to play that way because those Cincinnati teams simply did not have the talent to match up with Boston. Nevertheless, one of the first things that Coach Jackson did in both Chicago and L.A. was convince his all-time great shooting guards that in order for their teams to contend for championships an offensive system had to be put in place that provided opportunities for the other four players. You don't run the Triangle to get shots for MJ or Kobe, because those guys can get their shots in any system (or even without a system); you run the Triangle so that there is proper spacing and so that if the opposing team traps the superstar then the superstar's teammates have open shots that they are capable of making. LeBron seems to prefer to simply dribble and dribble and dribble. Also, I should add that an important difference between Robertson and LeBron is that Robertson had a much better idea of what a high percentage shot is and how to obtain it; when Robertson dominated the ball he famously eschewed the 15 foot shot if he could get a 12 footer and the 12 footer if he could get an eight footer and so forth. In contrast, LeBron far too often settles for long, off balance, low percentage shots.

 
At Wednesday, October 27, 2010 4:50:00 PM, Anonymous JackF said...

@David
How come a lot of stat gurus or bloggers obsessed with stats seem to ignore weaknesses in favor of stats. A good example would be hollinger who picked Denver, Cavs(past 2 years), Lakers(08), Suns to make it to the finals. How come they fail to realize that in the playoffs weaknesses matter more than stats. Whoever has the most weaknesses will lose the series unless they have an otherworldly superstar.
A lot of stats geeks or guys who don't understand the game picked the Heat to win the championships yet they fail to realize that the weaknesses that the heat have is where their main contenders in the East are strong(ridiculously so).
--------------------------
On Heat: It is dangerous to put three guys on the floor who have a high usage rate. It might take sometime for them to get accustomed to playing together or it might never happen. giving the ball up during the Olympic is much different than giving it up during the NBA season. Olympics only last about 8 games so guys have no problem with deferring.

 
At Wednesday, October 27, 2010 11:48:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

marcel

i think lebron proved him self pretty good so far in career. there was no right way to break up a marraige as kenny smith said with cleveland the fans would be mad either way. if he did the descion or not, the heat are going to be great with time. i think they have great chance to win ring when all said and done. def kobe and defintely more mj have had better career than lebron both top 7 players all time mj number 1 in my opipion we dont know where lebron will end up.

he might be with them he might not i never knew the big o resented jordan was considered by many best ever. big o and jim brown was similar in approach in a sense felt athletes should do more and give more to black community and felt like todays players were a little overated. both were greats of greats but always seemed mad that they didnt make todays money and didnt get respect they deserved.

heat got too get more post play at some point a jump shooting team right now. lebron or wade got too go to post or bosh.

 
At Thursday, October 28, 2010 1:28:00 AM, Blogger Ozivefueshe said...

When I saw that commercial I was just astounded. I've only seen it twice and that's 50 times too many in my book. I don't know which PR person he is talking to (Oh, just kidding, his "manager" Maverick Carter), but somebody needs to get fired. If he instead lets his game talk for him, get the championship he so desperately desires the press will truly forget about his baffling behavior this summer, but for some reason, he just can't let this go (along with Charles Barkley's pokes at him). I don't think he has that "anything to win" mentality. He will win as far as that fame will take him, but as long as winning is not his final goal, he will always fall short.

Stephen was right and another point Kobe emphasized was that everyone, whether they hate him or love him will, respect his game no matter what. That's what is important: the game, not this global icon crap; as one can observe (case in point, Kobe Bryant) winning in this sport leads to that, and one cannot evade winning to gain notoriety worldwide. It's sad that he hasn't viewed his counterpart like this and instead accuses him of "verbal jabs".
Question: What do you think Spoelstra making Haslem and Wade co-captains instead of Wade and James?
Also, what kind of offense should Spoelstra incorporate for his team besides the ultimate fast break?

BTW, Blake Griffin is a BEAST!!!

 
At Thursday, October 28, 2010 4:41:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Jack F:

You would have to ask Hollinger to explain why he made those picks.

I don't think of things in terms of "usage rate" but I agree with your larger point that LeBron and/or Wade will have to make some adjustments in order for the Heat to achieve their maximum potential; both players are used to monopolizing the ball and that clearly will not be possible now that they are on the same team. As I have repeatedly said, LeBron is clearly the superior player so I suspect that the way things will sort out is that LeBron will end up dominating the ball and Wade will end up playing off of the ball. That does not necessarily mean that LeBron will lead the team in scoring (he may lead the team in assists and finish a close second to Wade in scoring) but I think that LeBron will lead the team in scoring because he will shoot a higher FG% than Wade and thus end up with more points even if Wade attempts more shots.

 
At Thursday, October 28, 2010 5:04:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Marcel:

You might not be paying full attention to what I am saying. I am not criticizing LeBron for leaving Cleveland ("breaking up the marriage."). I am criticizing LeBron for (1) quitting versus Boston (a position that I took right after the games in question and long before LeBron left Cleveland) and (2) turning his free agency decision into a three ring circus culminating in a one hour testimonial to his ego that was a disservice to LeBron, the NBA and any last vestiges of ESPN's journalistic integrity (though that very phrase is an oxymoron).

However, regarding what Smith said and what you repeated, there is a right way and a wrong way to "break up a marriage." The right way is to conduct yourself maturely and treat all involved parties with dignity and respect; the wrong way is to run off with your new flame and flaunt your new status to the world without even telling your spouse that you are leaving. We all know which way LeBron chose.

We don't know for sure that the Heat will be great. You have been saying for years that LeBron will win multiple titles. I thought that the Cavs had the best team in 2009 and 2010 and that LeBron would lead the Cavs to championships in those seasons but it did not happen. As I have been telling you for months now, it is possible that LeBron will never play for another 66 win team and that he will never win an NBA title. I am not saying that will happen, but that possibility should not be dismissed out of hand. Winning a championship is difficult; it requires talent, heart and chemistry.

If you have paid attention to just about anything that the Big O has said or written then you know that he chafes at the idea that MJ is the greatest player ever. I understand why the Big O feels that way and I agree that MJ should not be considered far and away the greatest player; MJ is one of a handful of players who should be mentioned in that regard and MJ has been quick to acknowledge that it is difficult if not impossible to truly choose one "greatest player."

Your last comment just echoes what Charles Barkley said. The larger point is that LeBron has refused to develop a post game for several years so there is no reason to think that he is going to suddenly become a low post player. Bosh is a finesse big man who is more comfortable facing the basket. Wade is listed at 6-4 but is closer to 6-2, so I seriously doubt that he can be a team's primary low post scoring option. If LeBron or Wade were more consistent shooters then they could run screen/roll actions with Bosh the way that Kobe does with Gasol but as things are now the good teams will defend such an action by simply sagging off of LeBron or Wade. This is what I mean when I say that we will see what kind of an impact LeBron and Wade will have on Bosh. The "stat gurus" insist that both LeBron and Wade are better than Kobe, so if that is true then they should have no trouble transforming Bosh into an even more formidable player than Gasol.

It should be obvious that both Boston and Miami are capable of playing better than they did on opening night but two things won't change: (1) Boston has a size advantage that shows up in terms of both rebounding and points in the paint; (2) Miami has no one who can stay in front of Rondo. Those matchup problems will be serious issues if these teams face each other in a seven game series.

 
At Thursday, October 28, 2010 5:12:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Ozivefueshe:

Did Coach Spoelstra select the captains or did the players conduct a vote? Either way, it makes sense for the two veterans who have been there the longest to serve as the captains, a largely ceremonial role. LeBron is the team's best player and he will dictate how the team functions.

The "ultimate fast break" is not an offensive system; the best fast breaking teams in the league will only score a small percentage of their total points in fast break situations, so it is vitally important that the Heat develop some kind of offensive system. As I indicated in this article, Phil Jackson has been very successful with the Triangle Offense--but there are a lot of good offensive systems: the key question is whether or not LeBron and/or Wade are willing/able to stop monopolizing the ball long enough to actually run an offensive system that is not primarily based on isolation sets.

Regardless of what system Spoelstra ultimately uses, the most important thing for the Heat to do offensively is to create good spacing so that it is not easy for the opposing team to trap LeBron or Wade and then rotate after LeBron or Wade pass the ball.

 
At Thursday, October 28, 2010 2:20:00 PM, Blogger Ozivefueshe said...

What I meant by the ultimate fastbreak was having the best fastbreak in the league; sorry for the confusion. I was trying to emphasize what little formation they have in the 1/2 court set and what they can do to improve that.

 
At Thursday, October 28, 2010 11:18:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are you as bemused as I am over the lack of coverage of Cleveland's win over Boston? Its been near 24 hours since that win and barely a peep out of any of the major sites

 
At Friday, October 29, 2010 1:15:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Anonymous:

I am not surprised. A major problem with the mainstream media is that so many writers and broadcasters have distinct biases--they are intent on telling a certain story in a particular way and therefore any contradictory information is ignored. The "Cleveland story" is that the Cavs would be nothing without LeBron James, so if the Cavs do well without LeBron the Cavs will either be ignored or a story will be crafted to explain how they won despite LeBron no longer being on the team. A lot of people who either hate Kobe and/or love LeBron are determined to "prove" that LeBron had a weak supporting cast in Cleveland. The reality is that LeBron had a very good supporting cast in Cleveland--and several members of that supporting cast are still there and they will help the Cavs contend for a playoff berth this season.

 
At Friday, October 29, 2010 3:41:00 PM, Anonymous khandor said...

In response to the question:

"What should I do?"

The proper answer, in the best interests of both LeBron James and the Miami Heat, is:

"Allow D-Wade to remain as THE Leader of this team."

If/when this actuall happens, this year's Heat will have a very good chance of meeting the lofty expectations being placed on them.

==========

re: " ... LeBron is clearly the superior player ... "

The more these words are repeated does little to validate their substantive value.

==========

PS. Kudos to Coach Spoelstra for recognizing the merits of using Haslem and Wade as the co-captains for the Heat!

 
At Friday, October 29, 2010 4:17:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Khandor:

One does not "allow" someone else to be a leader. Leaders organically emerge based on their status within a group--and the leader of a basketball team is almost always going to be the best player on the team; other players on the squad may possess leadership qualities (Derek Fisher is a prime example) but the best player sets the tone with his actions and/or words.

I have not just "repeated words" about LeBron being the Heat's leader; I have explained in depth, in several different articles, specifically why LeBron is clearly a superior player than Wade and I also challenged you to attempt to refute my analysis, a challenge that you declined. The onus is on you to put up or shut up regarding the LeBron/Wade comparison and stop "repeating words" about how important it is for LeBron to "allow" Wade to be the team's leader.

Also, Spoelstra did not select the captains; that selection is the result of a vote by the players. Being a captain is a largely symbolic role but it makes sense for the Heat to select the two veteran players who have been there the longest. This has little to do with who will set the tone for how the team plays and practices; LeBron will dominate the ball and he will dominate the team.

The one thing that I agree with you about is that it is not necessarily a great thing for the Heat that they are now LeBron's team.

 
At Saturday, October 30, 2010 5:22:00 PM, Anonymous Ilhan said...

@Stephen, Ozivefueshe & David:

I have no sympathy for LeBron the person, yet I find the commercial to be nothing short of ingenious given the context. All of David's points are valid and, as I see it, beyond refutation, hence the admen aim to misdirect with this commercial, as if everyone is pissed off at LBJ for leaving Cleveland, listening to his friends etc., and not for quitting, vanity and so forth.

Where I disagree with you guys is the meaning of the dearth of basketball in the commercial. I think that is a very deliberate part of the misdirection strategy. By limiting basketball so drastically, they are saying "Look, you have been hating on/criticizing the guy not only for wrong reasons (of course, one should listen to one's friends!!), but also for non-basketball reasons!". And that - again very deliberate - LAST frame with the layup serves to underscore the main message: "This is the best basketball player in the world and he has been wronged/villified/crucified for (all the) wrong reasons". Again, I'm with you guys that it's sheer BS, nonetheless one has to admit that they spun this one real good.

One side note: I don't really get why (only) the talk of "global icon"-ship rubs you the wrong way. This is a guy who openly, without one iota of self-reflection, proclaimed - remind you: as an african-american in post-Katrina US - that he wanted to be the first billionaire athlete! I have been despising LeBron the person since then. Years ago, when I have aired this grievance in the comments section here, David politely reminded me that this is a basketball blog. Has it become acceptable now, post-LeQuit? I simply don't see why people almost unanimously (the qualifier is for Marcel) criticize LeBron for his vanity on account of the Decision, but not on account of other acts such as the billionaire quote. Vanity and egocentricism are present in both. Is it, I wonder, that where greed/money comes into play, mainstream america is anemic with criticism?

 
At Sunday, October 31, 2010 12:52:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Ilhan:

I agree with you that LeBron's Nike commercial is very polished and very slick on a superficial level; as you astutely point out, Nike is trying to deliver the message that LeBron is being unfairly criticized.

I wrote this article in response precisely because I find Nike's message to be nothing but propaganda; my criticism of LeBron is largely based on his disgraceful performance versus Boston and then secondarily based on how he turned the free agency process into a three ring circus. Neither LeBron nor his handlers have ever addressed those substantive criticisms.

LeBron has been talking about being a "global icon" for quite some time but I really did not care about this one way or the other until LeBron quit versus Boston; that was a watershed moment for me regarding LeBron because that is the first time that I really felt like winning was not his top priority. I have had the opportunity to cover LeBron since his rookie year and I was very impressed with how he systematically attacked his skill set weaknesses (defense, free throw shooting, perimeter shooting). I thought that LeBron truly was a "no excuse" player who would lead Cleveland to an NBA title. The way that he played against Boston--especially in games two and five--combined with the spectacle of him rubbing an elbow that was healthy enough to fire half court shots during pregame warmups shocked and disappointed me. It really seems like LeBron could not wait for the 2010 season to be over so he could direct the world's attention to his "Decision."

My critique of LeBron is not based on his "vanity" or any other personality trait per se but rather his actual conduct in terms of quitting on the court and then turning the free agency process into such an over the top spectacle.

I also find it telling that no one has contradicted Adrian Wojnarowski's report that LeBron conducted himself so poorly during an earlier stint with Team USA that he was almost left off of the team in 2008; I had never heard that before but that is really shocking if you think about it: how badly does the best (or second best) player in the world have to act for the powers that be to seriously consider leaving him off of the national team?

 
At Sunday, October 31, 2010 2:32:00 AM, Anonymous JackF said...

@David
It's also interesting that most of the old guard favors Kobe over Lebron while the stat inclined(new guard) favors Lebron over Kobe. Adrian Woj. also wrote about the special allowances that the Cavs made for Lebron which explained why Dan Gilbert was so enraged. But than again Gilbert has nobody to blame but himself because he allowed said things to happen.
I always thought Chicago offered Lebron the best opportunity to be a champion for top to bottom. That team is loaded: good defensive center who rebounds the ball, Boozer who i think is a better shooter than Bosh and fit with Lebron's game much better than Bosh. They have one of the best young PGs in Rose and Deng who has a good midrange game and whose game fits with Lebron. They also added one of the best 3pt shooters in Korver. Which is why it baffles me that Lebron went to Miami.
-------------------
On Lakers : How long do you think before Gasol start complaining that he doesn't get any touches? I say once Andrew comes back. How long before crazies start saying Pau is also the Lakers best player?
On Lakers acquisitions: Blake and Barnes have been revelations so far this season. I cant understand why so many pundits didn't view those signings as significant.
-------------------
On Miami: I'm starting to ask myself whether chemistry will be an issue down the road? Bosh is not getting a lot of scoring opportunities, Wade tries to assert himself as the Leader of miami whenever Lebron draws attention to himself. For example, right after Lebron did the chalk thing, Wade over and threw his hands up to draw a similar response from the crowd.
Lebron on the other hand knows he's the Heat best player and true leader of the team and so far has been willing to let Wade act like the leader much like Garnett did with Pierce.

 
At Monday, November 01, 2010 5:20:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Jack F:

GMs, coaches and players know who the best players are better than most media members, "stat gurus" and casual fans. This is not just the case regarding Kobe versus LeBron but also with a player like Scottie Pippen; many casual fans don't appreciate his greatness but GMs, coaches and players understand just how great Pippen was.

I am not sold on Chicago's nucleus just yet; the Bulls lack outside shooting and a dependable post presence. The Cavs of recent seasons had a better and deeper team than the Bulls and the current Heat team has a better chance to win a title than the Bulls would have had if LeBron had gone to Chicago.

Gasol should be grateful that playing alongside Kobe has elevated his status from one-time All-Star to two-time NBA champion and likely future Hall of Famer.

Media outlets cover stories that they believe will generate ratings/page views/ad sales. The Heat story has sizzle; Barnes and Blake do not have sizzle but you are right that the Lakers significantly upgraded their bench with those two acquisitions.

Chemistry is an issue for the Heat in many ways, not just concerning Bosh--but we will not really see how good (or bad) Miami's chemistry is until the Heat are tested in the playoffs by Boston and/or Orlando. The Heat will win a lot of blowout games during the regular season against teams that are intimidated and/or overwhelmed athletically but in seven game series against elite teams we will find out how good (and how mentally tough) the Heat really are.

 
At Monday, November 01, 2010 10:56:00 AM, Anonymous khandor said...

First. If you've read the quote which I supplied in the other thread, concerning the regard which Wade felt James and Bosh had for HIS leadership of the Heat, then you should realize already that LeBron and Chris are the ones who value Dwyane as THE Leader of this team, rather than the other way around.

Second. Authentic Leaders "allow" other "authentic Leaders" to lead in different/specific circumstances all of the time.

e.g. read the words of Dr. Jack Ramsay in this article:

http://www.oregonlive.com/blazers/index.ssf/2010/10/remembering_trail_blazers_lege_1.html

and then tell me if you still think that THE Leader of a championship-winning team is ALWAYS it's most talented basketball player.

Wade [#1] and Haslem [#1A] are the best 2 Leaders on the Heat this season, followed by Bosh [#2], James [#3] and, then, Juwon Howard [#4, as a bench player who seldoms plays].

Third. When championship-calibre teams are in their forming/storming stages, it generally includes more than the annointing of their most "talented" player being crowned as their illegitimate leader.

PS. In general, I try not to waste time attempting to provide "tangible proof" of things which really cannot be "proven" at all. :-)

 
At Monday, November 01, 2010 3:45:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Khandor:

I agree with you that both Wade and Haslem have good leadership qualities and that teams can have more than one leader. Scottie Pippen was certainly a leader for the championship Bulls (and THE leader for the 1993-94 and 1994-95 Bulls after Michael Jordan retired for the first time) but Michael Jordan was THE leader. Wade and Haslem will provide leadership for the Heat in certain situations, as you suggested, but LeBron will set the overall tone for how the team practices and plays. LeBron will also dominate the ball offensively as both a scorer and playmaker (I expect him to lead the team in both scoring and assists).

Lucas was a leader for the Blazers and he certainly filled a vital role as a rebounder/defender/enforcer who could also score 18-20 ppg but it is a tribute to Walton's leadership (as the team's best player) that he so enthusiastically praises Lucas--much like I would expect LeBron to praise Wade and Haslem as leaders even though LeBron is the team's best player and primary leader.

I realize that it cannot be definitively "proven" that LeBron is a better player than Wade but I explained in detail my reasoning (LeBron has a more complete skill set in addition to being bigger and stronger). You have taken a contrary position without offering any reasons; to borrow your line, repeatedly saying that Wade is as good as LeBron and that Wade is the team's leader does not make either of those things true.

 
At Monday, November 15, 2010 5:26:00 PM, Blogger Isaiah Barney said...

You should setup your blog to have options to share your articles on Twitter and Facebook. They are very good to read but hard to share.

 
At Sunday, December 19, 2010 2:43:00 AM, Blogger vednam said...

Sorry to comment on such an old thread, but I just think it's unfair to Oscar Robertson to suggest that his style of play may not have been suited to winning championships.

I've read some of the criticism of Robertson for dominating the ball and shooting a lot. However, Robertson's Cincinnati teams never contended for titles, and basketball writers tend unfairly criticize superstars when their teams are struggling. Think of how much unfair criticism Kobe Bryant routinely received from 2005-08. It's possible that Oscar's critics were as far off as most of Kobe's critics from 2005-08 were.

The fact is, unlike LeBron's Cavs, Oscar's Royals never had the best record in the league and were never favored to even make it to the Finals. Oscar had the bad luck of playing in the same division as the Celtics and 76ers, two teams built around all-time great centers with hall-of-fame supporting casts. Had the Royals played out West, they might have challenged the Lakers for the honor of losing to the Celtics in the Finals (and if the Lakers played in the East, they probably would have never made it to the Finals). In that case, Oscar might not have gotten as much criticism.

To give Robertson's critics the benefit of the doubt, it's impossible for us to say for sure whether or not Robertson dominated the ball too much. Why? There's hardly any film for us to look at. But considering the fact that superstars on mediocre teams usually receive unfair criticism, as well as the fact that no one can accuse Robertson of dominating the ball too much once he joined a talented team in Milwaukee (compare how Robertson adjusted his game to play with Kareem to, for instance, how Jerry West continued his high-volume shooting after Wilt Chamberlain joined his team), I'm inclined to give Robertson the benefit of the doubt. I think Oscar Robertson got the most out of his team by the way he played. He made marginal players like Wayne Embry and Adrian Smith into all-stars.


Anyway, I agree that Magic/Lebron comparisons are inaccurate due to how much LeBron shoots and dominates the ball. However, I think that comparisons to Oscar Robertson are at least as inaccurate. LeBron might put up similar numbers, but I don't think his game is nearly as refined as Robertson's was. It's telling that LeBron is a much bigger guy but that his post-up game is not as developed as Robertson's was. Robertson was more skilled and methodical, whereas LeBron relies more on athleticism and is more prone to taking bad shots when he can get better ones. In terms of skill set, a young Magic Johnson/LeBron comparison might work better than an Oscar/LeBron comparison. The young version of Magic, like LeBron, had an unpolished offensive game in some ways, and an unreliable jump-shot.

 
At Monday, December 20, 2010 2:49:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Vednam:

I am not saying that I agree with these criticisms of the Big O but it is certainly valid to mention that Robertson was criticized for monopolizing the ball during his Cincinnati years, something that LeBron has also done (while receiving far less criticism) for much of his NBA career.

You are right that superstars are sometimes unfairly criticized for the shortcomings of their teammates--and Kobe Bryant circa 2005-2007 is certainly a prime example of that--but it is also true that it is difficult for a team to win a championship with one player monopolizing the ball. That is why Coach Jackson has utilized the Triangle Offense throughout his NBA coaching career; the superstar players can always get their own shots but a team needs a structure that enables the other players to get good shots. The "system" of LeBron getting his, followed by Wade getting his and everyone else getting table scraps may look great against weak teams but it is not likely to work in a seven game series versus the Celtics or Lakers.

You are right that LeBron's game is not nearly as refined as Robertson's; Robertson was legendary for methodically trying to work his way closer to the hoop, while LeBron settles far too often for perimeter shots. However, the way that LeBron monopolizes the ball and puts up big numbers in rebounds and assists while scoring around 30 ppg (at least until this season) can only be compared to Robertson. That is not at all the same thing as saying that LeBron is as great as Robertson or that LeBron's game is equally refined. All I am saying is that I see little similarity between LeBron and Magic other than height, while LeBron and Robertson posted similar box score numbers.

Calling LeBron a pass first player makes little sense to me; he is a big time scorer who also possesses outstanding passing skills but he shoots far more often than he passes.

 

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