What We Have Witnessed

“I would have to agree to disagree with that.”

– His Majesty, Lebron James, when asked if Bryant’s farewell tour and the Warriors’ march to history finally pushed him to the periphery

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 Gilbert Arenas, well known ‘Right-To-Bear-Arms-Even-In-An-NBA-Locker-Room‘ Advocate, took to Instagram last year for some (???) reason:

mensaje-gilbert-arenas-lebron-james-instagram-1438340452852KINGJAMES…..this person comes around once in a blue moon…a man whos so physically gifted he could walk into any sport and be a HOF’ER off his natural (God given ability) last person who was this gifted in sports might have been #BOJackson…LET’S take away EVERY STAT and start from scratch..#NATURAL gifts…6-8..275..44 inch vert…once at top speed can’t be stopped…vision like magic johnson..a natural #LEFTY who plays basketball as a righty….him stepping on a nba floor with no effort stats are 25 6 7…now his WEAKNESSES he had to work on to be the G.O.A.T…James is more like a train then a cheetah in movement.. his first 2 steps aren’t very powerful so this hurt him on iso’s and the ability to blow pass players from standstill position…hints why he’s at the point he needs to be moving at all time so when he decides to attack he’s already in full motion…he doesnt change direction well becuz he doesn’t bend much he plays str8 up and down like #jkidd did which limits him from cross overs and spinning…James isn’t a #1 option..and yes I (didn’t stutter) he lacks #selfishness so he will always need a go to guy like wade was or kyrie.. he lacks what jordan and kobe were..great 1 on 1 players… he needs a pure scorer beside him so he can carry the TEAM load…he gets bashed alot by media becuz he doesn’t take over like #MJ or #KB but #LBJ is MAGIC with Jordan like athleticism..so he walks into stats without trying and when forced he will give u 41 12 8…the finals was the first time in his career he was physically pushed to the limit becuz he had no one to defur to…when players like magic,Barkley and analysis bash him I cringe…like u ppl have no idea what he could do if he had (1) season just 1 selfish season like kobe did in 2005-06 he will avg 40+ 11 9 and no one could do shit about it…it’s sad the world wont get to see Who I’m talking about becuz his legacy is built on winning…if u doubt what I’m saying..look at every game he was pissed off and was challenged….this man could be the second best 3rd for sure player to ever play when it’s all said and done around 2020+and he didn’t even tap into his ability to be GREATEST..

LeBron James isn’t #selfish enough. You heard it here first folks. Putting aside Gilbert’s general shenanigans, he’s just not on LeBron’s level in terms of talent.  Let’s explore the obvious – The average PER for the league is 15, and Arenas has averaged a 19.6 PER average over the course of his career.  His best season, 06-07, he worked his way to a 24, which is an all-star level performance. Meanwhile, in LeBron’s rookie season he registered an 18.6 PER, the lowest of his career, and topped off at an absurd 31.7 in 08-09 and then a 31.6 in 12-13. What Gilbert Arenas doesn’t understand is that LeBron’s offense is super-charged by his hawk-like court vision.  Help defenders who decide to contest a LeBron attempt are burned by LeBron’s incredible #selfless basketball.  It’s just another aspect of the dynamism and utter universality of his talents – he’s more than capable of being the best player on the floor in every capacity. What we are bearing witness to is the un-missing link – the next step in basketball evolution.  If this is the basketball renaissance, then LeBron is the quintessential Renaissance man.  He can do it all, and he can do it better than you – Jack of All Trades; Master of All. The word ‘unstoppable’ is often thrown around as if it’s an achievable status.

LeBron’s unstoppable.  Don’t forget that.

Shut up, Gilbert.

James is a rising tide that lifts all the boats on Miami’s roster. The combination of his poise, vision, athleticism, and basketball IQ enables him to survey the court as if it were a chessboard. It’s this ability that separates him from “pure scorers” like Carmelo Anthony. He is more Kasparov than Kobe. Even the people closest to him see him as a chess player: “All my family members have been saying, ‘Listen, you need to learn how to play chess, because that will be your game.’” But James already has a game, and he is already its grand master.

LeBron James Controls the Chessboard, Kirk Goldsberry, Grantland

What type of name is Gilbert anyways.  It’s stupid.  You have a stupid name, Gilbert. The Carmelo Anthony comparison is telling, but doesn’t go far enough.  This article is meant to be a comprehensive comparison of LeBron and MJ, but instead I’m going to use the first part to focus purely on LeBron.  What I’m trying to say here is that I’m just going to fan boy for a while.   I don’t love LeBron because his shoes are really dope, or because he sells vitamin water. (which is pretty good, not very nutritional, but you know how advertising goes) It’s not because he was the bad boy when he left Cleveland; it wasn’t because he’s the hero now upon his return. I’m not a fan boy because he was funny in The LeBrons series of advertisements.   But they were really funny though:

I love LeBron because I love the game of basketball and he’s doing it right. In hindsight, those The LeBrons commercials predicted the many roles he’s played in the public sphere:

Those circa 2006 Nike ads that depicted a family of LeBrons turned out more prescient than the copywriters at Wieden+Kennedy intended. LeBron has resembled, at various points of his career, an exuberant kid; a vain, arrogant status-humper; and a surly old man.

Colin McGowan, Vice Sports, LeBron James, Michael Jordan, and the Next Act

As much as his public persona has changed, his game has changed more.

The Prince

Strengths: His vision and passing skills are what sets him apart. A player with his combination of size, and point guard skills is very rare. The only player to have this in the past was Magic Johnson. There are no more than 5 players in the NBA that have the vision and passing skills of LeBron. On top of all this he’s a physical specimen. The sky is truly the limit. He has developed his body to make it a great strength, he is a legit 240 pounds and has very little body fat. Has an “NBA body” at 18. He has all the gifts to play PG, but he will likely have to start at the 2 and 3 positions before he can really run a team from the point guard position. But when you have a player with his type of passing skills, you want the offense to run through him every time down the floor, making point guard his natural position. He has met and surpassed the hype every step of the way. The game just comes so easily to him, he’s the epitome of a hoops prodigy. He has changed the face of highschool athletics with Nationally televised games being carried by ESPN. He has lived up to the hype and then some every step of the way. Carmelo Anthony has a better jumpshot than LeBron, and a NCAA title under his belt. But LeBron has far superior upside.

Weaknesses: All the hype at such a young age is inconceivable. Can he stay focused and continue to work hard to improve his game? His free throw shooting must improve. Defensive intensity must get better. Right now, he’s under 70%, but this should definitely improve with experience. LeBron still tends to go for the spectacular at times when a solid play is all that’s necessary. But it’s probably nitpicking as he likes to put on a show, and usually only brings out tricks when the game is in hand. Which for him on the HS level is usually the entire game. No one has ever had to overcome this kind of hype as a highschool player.

– Aran Smith, Draft Profile

Reading this gave me chills.

His solitary weakness pre-draft was hype (for those keeping track, he is too selfless and too hyped).

In LeBron’s first game against the Sacramento Kings, “King James” recorded 25 points, 9 assists, 6 rebounds, 4 steals, and shot 60% from the field. Needless to say, it didn’t take long to sway the doubters during LeBron James rookie year.

Efficiency

Lebron James joked with a reporter: “I don’t really set out goals as far as what I want to shoot from the field,” James said. “I know I want to take good shots and I know I want to be in attack and if that results in [60 percent] then it will be great, but I want to get the best shot for myself and for our team every possession.”   Moreyball is taking spreadsheets across the league by storm, forcing every team to squeeze the value out of every possession on offense, and prevent the same from happening on defense.  Mid-range jump shots look awesome, especially off balance ones.  Part of the majesty of the MJ/ Kobe fading jumper is that it is observably difficult.   But why take a harder shot?  Lay-ups are worth 2 points too, they’re just not as electrifying; but you know what’s really electrifying? GOOD FUNDAMENTAL BASKETBALL. Layups, dunks, corner 3s, and free-throws: cut out all that mid-range jump-shot nonsense and all of a sudden you’re blowing teams like, say, Byron Scott’s Lakers, out of the water.  Mid-range shots are like cigarettes: they look super cool, but they’re fatal.  Plus, there’s other ways to look cool, without cigarettes!

During the 2013-14 season, 99 players attempted at least 300 shots inside of 8 feet, and only one converted more than 70 percent of those shots. James made 75 percent. Through the first decade of his career, James’s field goal percentage was dependably ascendant. In his rookie season of 2003-04, he made just 42 percent of his shots. His second season, that number rose to 47 percent. Incredibly, it rose every year except one through last season, when James peaked and converted a blistering 57 percent of his shots. In the last 20 years, aside from James, there have been only two players to score at least 25 points per game while also converting at least 55 percent of their shots: peak Amar’e Stoudemire and peak Shaquille O’Neal.

The King’s Burden, Kirk Goldsberry – Grantland

Dominance

Game 2 of the 2015 NBA Finals was a shit-show for Cleveland.  LeBron James limped out there with fellow starters Tristan Thompson, Timofey Mozgov, Matthew Dellavedova, and Iman Shumpert.  None of them have been starting caliber players for more than a single season – I always thought Matthew Dellavedova was an overly enthusaistic towel-boy who paid for his own uniform.

These D-League caliber Cavaliers then went out and shot a pathetic 33 percent from the field.  LeBron made 11-34 shots, 4-21 after half-time.  It was truly cringe-worthy.

And they won the fucking game.

As the teams went to mid-court for the opening jump ball, I wondered what James thought. It was Game 2 of the NBA Finals, and his four fellow starters were Tristan Thompson, Iman Shumpert, Dellavedova and Timofey Mozgov.  Here’s what Neil Paine of FiveThiryEight.com thought:

paine-datalab-lebron-cast-2If we look at a multi-year Statistical Plus/Minus talent projection for every NBA Finals team, this Cavs team ranks as the ninth-least talented NBA finalist since 1985. (By contrast, Cleveland’s opponents, the mighty Golden State Warriors, rank as the 14th-most talented.) Remove James, and things get even more dire; his supporting cast ranks as the third-worst team carried by its best player to the NBA Finals since 1985.

For James, though, this year’s supporting cast still eclipses the group he dragged to the Finals in 2007 — if barely so. Replacing James with a league-average player (rated 0.0) would drop this season’s Cavaliers from a +5.4 talent rating to -0.1. Yanking James off the 2007 Cavs would make a +6.2 team play to a rating of -0.2. James’s own rating was marginally better that year, but the 30-year-old has also relied more heavily on his teammates this season, playing 10 percent fewer minutes per game (weighted by the leverage of each game) than when he was an up-and-coming 22-year-old.

Where this Year’s Cavs Rank Among LeBron’s NBA Finals Supporting Casts

LeBron James did not hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy above his head last year: so for some reason the NBA hive-mind decided that what he did didn’t matter –  he lost – he’s a loser.

Ask yourself: was Andre Igoudala the Finals MVP last year?  He averaged 16.3 points to LeBron’s 35.8, he averaged 5.8 rebounds to LeBron’s 13.3, and he averaged 4 assists to LeBron’s 8.8.  All the sport’s maxims in the world and all the Scottie Pippen dumb-ass quotes can’t change the stark reality that Andre played alongside the best team in history, and LeBron played alongside one of the worst supporting cast in Final’s history.

There used to be a widespread belief that LeBron isn’t a clutch player.  Now there are lingering talks of his inability to win in the NBA Finals in 3 of his 5 appearances, as if his performances had anything to do with that… except in 2011.   LeBron James is the first player since the 1960s Celtics to make 5 consecutive NBA Finals.  There’s little doubt that he will do that again next season.

Screen Shot 2016-04-17 at 1.00.10 AM

The Here and Now

This season, however, LeBron wasn’t the most valuable player in the league.  Steph Curry holds that distinction.

But, after shifting into Zero-Dark-6 “playoff mode”, James averaged 28.4 points on 63% shooting, hitting 52% on from 3, with 8.0 assists and 8.5 rebounds in his last 10 games.  It’s clear that James has enough left in the tank for a playoff performance something akin to the one he produced last year.

We are still witnesses, and LeBron is still in his prime.

Meanwhile, Kobe just retired: to some it was glorious, and to some it was ghastly.  To all, it was something to behold.

The ending of an era.  I still can’t believe he’s gone.

The last few years of Kobe’s reign were not pretty.

LeBron James is a basketball phenomena the likes of which we have never seen and will possibly never see again.  He’s hit his peak and – I’m sorry – but it’s only going downhill from here.

But, LeBron is still here.  He’s no longer the undisputed Emperor of the NBA, but he’s still the King.

We have a precious few years left to witness true basketball royalty.  Don’t take it for granted:

We are all witnesses.

Still.