DID YOU KNOW: LeBron James is shooting 48% from 3-point range in the playoffs?
48 percent! That’s 2% less than 50% which means he’s basically making half his shots from deep. I bring up the math because it’s going to be a math problem for every team he faces in the playoffs. When LeBron’s outside shot is dropping, he can pretty much score 40 in his sleep. Which might explain why he’s shooting this jumper against the Raptors with the intensity of someone who just woke up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom:
That’s during an NBA playoff game – and LeBron’s out there splashing his shot with concern of someone splashing the toilet at 2:30 A.M. That is the behavior of someone who gives zero fucks. And, all you have to do is watch that clip to know that the Raptors have zero chance in this series. This isn’t a 2-0 lead like the one the Celtics have against the Wiz (a series I still think will go 7), this is a 2-0 that might as well be 4-0, because the King has deemed it so. The Raptors are his porcelain throne.
Of course, that single highlight isn’t the point of this post, so much as I want all of you to marvel at how beautiful LeBron’s 3-point shot looks. We should all appreciate the purity of its parabola, because marveling at it simply wasn’t an option in the past. In fact, in the last two NBA Finals series against the Warriors, you might’ve even said that LeBron’s poor outside shooting was making him look a bit archaic in the modern game. Now, not so much. Here we are a in 2017 and the jumper’s wet. What happened?
Two things: 1) LeBron knows that 3-ball-bonanza Warriors are his ultimate foe. 2) He knows that the Raptors are not. Hence his utter lack of concern in the clip. LeBron is well aware that shooting is the only advantage the Dubs have over him, and that’s why he’s treating this Raptors series like an elaborate practice. A practice. He’s putting in the work he needs to win in Oakland even if he’s heading out to Toronto. He’s always been readying himself for the real challenge. And, the King might not always win – but he always comes prepared.
LeBron is the last boy scout. He’s got every merit badge. And, it’s his ability to do anything – his adaptability – that makes him special. At this point in his career – and especially after watching him shoot in this post-season – it’s clear there’s nothing on a basketball court that LBJ can’t do. It seems like all it takes is one summer for him to add any weapon he might need to his arsenal. And, it’s this preternatural versatility that has me wondering… Is there anyone better suited for being great at basketball – in any era – than the guy we’re watching right now?
LeBron’s ability to do anything on the court is probably unmatched by anyone in the history of the game, except for one Michael Jeffrey Jordan. The now-and-forever default G.O.A.T. – Jordan’s resume and sheer will to win are still superior, but now, I think it’s safe to say that LeBron has developed one big advantage that MJ. It’s an advantage that might not make LeBron the greatest player ever – but it might make him the greatest franchise player ever.
LeBron has been in the league for 14 years now – he’s been an All-Star 13 times, he’s made the All-NBA First Team 10 times, he’s been to the NBA Finals 7 times (6 straight), he’s been the league’s MVP 5 times (I don’t acknowledge Derrick Rose’s victory). The list goes on – and the list is long. It’s long because LeBron James is now the second, most consistently elite player the game has ever seen, second only to Kareem. And, that still won’t make him your first choice if your life depended on winning one game. But, he has a legit case for the hypothetical – if your life depended on running a successful franchise, who would you choose?
Because, here’s the reality – LeBron is better at being great than Jordan ever was. From the time he was a junior in high school, it’s been shouted from the mountain tops that he was a lock to be the next big thing. He was on the cover of Sports Illustrated when he was 17-years old. He didn’t get to be a normal teenager – he was too busy being studied, scrutinized, and touted as the next basketball savior – all things you shouldn’t do to a kid if you want them to turn out normal. And, despite all that, from the minute he arrived in the NBA, he immediately lived up to the hype. It’s a fact that is not appreciated or admired about him nearly enough. I mean, just take a look at how most child stars turn out. Last time I checked, LeBron has never been on VH1’s Celebrity Rehab.
No, he opted to be on ABC’s The NBA Finals instead. 7 times. Enough seasons to go into syndication (get that Seinfeld money, LBJ). And, he did it coming up in an era that was about way more than just television. LeBron has been great at being famous in a time when it has never been harder to be famous. In an era when the NBA is a 24/7 league – analyzed by both social media, and a sports media that is far more expansive and all-knowing – the league’s biggest and most highly scrutinized star has never really had any problems. And, he’s done it pretty effortlessly. In fact, the only thing people hate him for – his only major “scandal” – involved him switching teams in a kind of douche-y way and then having a dumb parade. If that’s the worst thing on your resume then you’re doing pretty good in my opinion.
Michael Jordan, on the other hand, did stuff that was way worse. And, all you have to do is look at the way people reacted to “The Decision” to understand that His Airness probably would’ve gotten killed for a lot of his behavior in the modern era. At best, he might’ve fallen onto that spectrum of a “love him or hate him” star like Kobe Bryant. At worst, it’s not ridiculous to think that MJ’s rap sheet might’ve turned him into one of the more hated players in the game. Either way, he certainly wouldn’t have enjoyed the universal popularity that he did in the 90’s. Space Jam? Yeah, no – that space gonna have to get jammed by someone else.
If you’re choosing your all-time franchise guy, here’s what you’re getting when you pick Michael Jordan: You’re getting the best player ever. Period.
But, you’re also getting a huge asshole.
MJ punched teammates in the face. These were white teammates by the way – and it’s hard to imagine a scenario where that wouldn’t get blown out of proportion in today’s media landscape. (Can you imagine the shit-storm that would’ve ensued if LeBron had clocked Matthew Dellevadova in his Australian face last year?) Jordan was also so pro-business, and so A-political, as to basically be a Republican – something that surely wouldn’t go over well with NBA fans in today’s political climate. He also gambled, stayed out late, and partied on nights before big games. He even got “the flu” during the ’97 Finals – and there’s a good chance it was the same “flu” I get on the Monday after the Super Bowl every year. And most importantly, he quit basketball and decided to play baseball. A super weird choice considering that it is an indisputable fact that baseball sucks. Still, to this day, the reasoning behind that decision is anyone’s guess.
I’m kind of kidding about those last two (kind of), but it’s not a joke to say that MJ wouldn’t have gotten away with half the shit now that he did back then. The media monolith that protected Jordan throughout the majority of his career – if for no other reason than wanting access to the most popular player in the sport’s history – wouldn’t be around to protect him in 2017. You can’t “bury” a story anymore. Air Jordan’s behavior wouldn’t fly these days.
His image would take a hit because of it. Subsequently, so would any organization that employed him. There would be much starker realities to dealing with fallout of his actions on a year-to-year basis than there was two decades ago. And, to me, that means there is a legit discussion to be had about whether or not a GM would bypass the headache that is MJ altogether and opt to deal with someone else instead. Picking LeBron means the most you’ll ever have to worry about is being subtweeted. Picking Jordan means the most you’ll ever have to worry about is – well – what’s the most amount of money you’ve ever owed to organized crime? I’m just saying – there are worse things than having your franchise unfollowed on Twitter.
So, you wanna know who’s atop my all-time franchise player list?
Yeah, it’s still Jordan.
I’ll just hire a really good PR team. Let LeBron be the nice guy. I think he’d better in Space Jam anyway.