As I compile these thoughts, I’m having a cold one while watching him melodramatically argue with a referee about a missed foul call. Believe me when I say that as a Torontonian I can understand how that feels.
As a Raptors fan since birth, I have a lot to say on Lebron James and it’s hard to find the words to do so…(Pause). After completely overshadowing our pride and joy Chris Bosh’s entrance to the league, he simply came around and stole him from us (as if we weren’t already a pathetic enough team to begin with).
I hated Lebron.
I hated the colour of his team’s jersey.
I hated the city of Cleveland (anyone remember Joakim Noah?).
I hated the comparisons to Jordan and Kobe.
Those damn commentators for Cavs’ games make me contemplate suicide to this day with their verbal diarrhea. From the famed “crab-walk” to the way in which continuation fouls seemed to fly above all judgement baffled me and I forced myself into a mental frenzy surrounding the constant denial of his skill, or contribution to the sport.
The fact of the matter is that as a die-hard Kobe Bryant fan, I needed to ensure that true respect was not being spilled freely without critique. The killer mentality of Kobe as a scoring assassin was something that I did not see in the young King of Akron and so the interest in seeing his crown get knocked off became something far too satisfying to pass up. From the Spurs, to the Mavs, to the Warriors, the ability for me to rely on the championship ring argument against respecting Lebron has always been strong.
But something began to change.
Coming off of an expected finals slapping by Slim Reaper and the Golden State Warriors, I recognized that I needed to begin to rethink my childhood disdain for this fallen King. For God’s sake, he pretty much served up a triple double with a side of everything else on the stat sheet to try and keep that 2017 Finals somewhat competitive, and with my blinders finally getting rusty, I realised I had willfully missed out on 14 years of basketball mastery.
From the ability to memorize the offensive schemes of multiple positions, to quarterbacking the offense like a vintage Peyton Manning, Lebron re-defined court general. The sheer brilliance of his I.Q became visible to me in this 15th season of his, where I finally fully converted from Hater to Fan.
Having been left with an overpaid team of doddering senior citizens, a Leprechaun, the most bi-polar shooter in modern NBA history, and a consistently shunned Kevin Love, after the juicy Kyrie Irving trade, I finally felt that there was a real challenge that I could examine Lebron under a new and slightly less biased set of eyes.
While I knew this was Lebron’s year to stat-pad, it was his shift from relying as much on brute athleticism to more on court vision that really impressed me. This is not to say that young LBJ was a wild force and elder LBJ is a sage Dumbledore – relax. I’m simply saying that this season has shown the gradual shift to re-tooling how to play the game to remain dominant, in a rapidly changing environment.
With emerging multi-faceted ballers like Ben Simmons, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Nikola Jokic, James Harden, Steph Curry, Russell Westbrook, Anthony Davis, and Karl Anthony Towns, among other titans, the Crown is certainly becoming a little less shiny on the sprayed-fade of the kid from Akron.
Seeing how Lebron has really taken it into his initiative to speak and demonstrate on social issues, as well as dabbling into fields of film production and media management, I have really built a solid respect for the man as an amalgamation of everything good from the prior generations of the sport, bottled into one monster specimen. Also, embarrassing admission here, but he has finally been able to impress me with a sneaker…these fly-knit looking Lebron 15’s are definitely something worth looking at.
So what happened here, and how can I so proudly hop on bandwagons I have long thrown imaginary tomatoes at?
I guess with getting older, I’m less immersed in the vicarious emotional experience of “being” a particular player in the driveway. I guess now I’m more interested in seeing how the game is changing, how legends are born, and how legacies are recognized.
Emotions certainly add spice, but too much can remove the complete taste of the raw experience.
Maybe because the Raptors are doing so well, I’m less invested in Lebron’s downfall, and hence this very overdue period of growing up. Perhaps I’ll re-ignite the flame of hatred if we get swept again in a few weeks or so. Who knows. All I know is that before it’s too late, I’m glad to have taken a step back to see the bigger masterpiece that King James is creating in his legacy both on and off the court, and I would be a fool to cloud that view with youthful hate.
That being said, hey Lebron if you randomly read this (which I highly doubt), it’s probably best you choose to come here or go to San Antonio next season. I’ll tell you why in a later piece, maybe after you get through this season.