One of a kind. That’s how he is described. There will never be another player like him.
He is bigger, faster, more athletic. Sure, his scoring and rebounding is amazing, but have you seen his passing? It’s probably his best characteristic. Just astounding court vision, really. He can do it all. And not to mention he averaged a triple double for an entire season! Truly, there will never be another Oscar Robertson.
Oh, sorry. Did you think I was talking about somebody else?
Why aren’t sports fans ever satisfied? Why can’t we look at a player or a team or a season and appreciate them for what they are, not what we want them to be or what we want to compare them to? Michael Jordan hadn’t even retired and we were looking for “The Next Jordan”. There has to be something more, right?
And there always is. There will be another. There was another Jordan before he even retired. Heck, there between Tracy McGrady, Vince Carter, and Kobe Bryant, there were at least three Jordans. Why? Because Jordan influenced the culture. “I wanna be like Mike” made all kinds of kids actually want to be like Mike, and then when they made it to the NBA, they were just like him. And oddly enough, we hated it.
There will be another. Before MJ, there were so many players we thought were the best. We loved Magic and Bird, but by the mid-90’s we had decided that the most impressive thing was individual dominance and intense desire to crush the opposition. We loved Dr. J, but by the 80’s we decided what we really needed the rivalry between two equally skilled opponents to keep us interested. We loved Wilt and Russell and Kareem, but by the 70’s what we really wanted to see was flash and style and high flying athleticism. There was always a best, and there will always be another.
Lebron James is not Michael Jordan. Michael Jordan is not Bill Russell. Yet we have no choice but to constantly compare them all in a constant search for the next big thing. In the process, we ignore and downplay the accomplishments of the great ones in the past. Nobody remembers just how huge the impact of Julius Erving really was, because we’re too focused on rings and rings and MVPs and all this other stuff. MJ hasn’t even been retired for all that long and we can’t help but say “Eh, maybe Jordan wasn’t THAT good.”
Think about Wilt Chamberlain. What do you remember? The 100 point game and his claim to have had a lot of sex. That’s it. Not his insane athletic ability and how he would compete in the high jump in college. Not his playing for the Harlem Globetrotters. None of that. Time causes us to think we are the best versions of humanity ever, and the same applies to sports. We have smart phones and iPads, so surely our sports are just that much better than they were 50 years ago as well.
It’s really strange to really think about. I mean, Lebron has always been told that he was The Chosen One. He had every single gift, and everything has gone his way. Forget the fact that many other NBA players have better dribble moves. Forget that many others are better shooters. Forget that many others can pass better and have multitudes of post moves and can create their own shot better. Forget that there are many other NBA players who are, in a sense, better basketball players in terms of refined ability. His naturalness trumps them all, so we can’t look around that and we won’t do it in the first place. But this isn’t about whether or not he’s good. Very clearly, he is the best we have right now.
We have no healthy view of the past, so therefore we have no healthy view of the present. And because of that, we will not have a healthy view of the future. Lebron James is bigger and faster and more athletic than anyone we’ve ever seen, so surely there’s nobody like him. Except we’re already seeing what lies down the road. We’re already seeing fast and athletic 7 foot tall guys who can dribble around defenders and shoot over them. Kevin Durant is the prototype for the future of the NBA. We already have the future in front of us right now. Yet we are always looking for another, all the while thinking this is the best it will ever be. What a contradiction.
Is Lebron the best ever? I don’t know. He’s 28 years old and only won two titles. We we trying to have the same discussion about Michael Jordan when he was 28? We can’t credit the man for what he actually has done without overreacting one way or another. Either he’s the worst or the best but we can’t ever just say “Right now, he is a really good basketball player.” But I know for sure one thing: in ten years, we will be looking for the next Lebron James. 1o years after that, we’ll be wondering if Lebron really was all that great anyway.
This NBA season has drawn to an end. But thank God, there will be another.