A quick thought on LeBron James, NBA free agent and perpetual lightning rod, as it pertains to our remodeling local National Basketball Association entry:
If you are one of the fascinatingly oblivious folks who took time out of a lovely Tuesday to call your sports radio station of choice to breathlessly alert the audience that you, the basketball aficionado and True Celtichood arbiter, would never want the transcendent superstar in green and white, I have two questions for you:
1) Have you ever seen LeBron James play basketball?
2) What are you waiting for? The NBA is pretty damn great these days, and LeBron is a big reason why. You should watch him play sometime, brother. He’s a legend in his own time, and he plays the game right.
I do understand, looking at it from a rival’s perspective, why some wouldn’t like him. I don’t think a lot of us liked Magic Johnson in the ’80s Celtics-Lakers bloodsport heyday, either. And unlike Magic, Larry Bird, and Michael Jordan, he embraced his contemporary rivals rather than trying to destroy them. LeBron was complicit in putting together a super team, one that ended the run for the second big three; sometimes he appears to be a front-runner. He’s occasionally tone-deaf, such as counting all those Heat championships before they hatched. The Decision was a poor one, albeit in an entertaining in a what-is-he-thinking? sort of way.
But for someone who grew up poor and without a father, someone who has been beyond famous since he was, what, 14 years old, he strikes me as extraordinarily decent and well-adjusted. Either someone — a coach, a relative, a lifelong friend — gave him valuable and tireless guidance along the way, or he has such a good head on his shoulders that he someone managed to maintain common sense and perspective despite circumstances that would have warped the world view of even the most grounded individuals. Probably both, actually.
I do believe his inclusive personality is evident in his brilliant game. And if you’re a basketball fan — I mean, someone who loves adores the game, who renews League Pass without looking at the bill, who digs that Grantland has subtly become the best NBA site around, who admires those who play it at a supreme level and with great effort, selflessness, passion, and intelligence — I do not have a clue why you’d take umbrage with LeBron.
He is a transcendent, generational talent who enhances the skills of the other four players on the floor with him. I’d suggest he’s unselfish to a fault, but you cannot blame him for being an ideal teammate, especially since he habitually takes over like few in the history of the game can when the moment demands it.
I think unselfishness is at play here, too, with his decision to opt out. While it gives NBA fans one more seismic potential transaction to ponder, the reality is that he’ll probably re-sign with the Heat, and on a deal that affords them some financial flexibility to bring in some of his friends to help him get the next round against that true superteam, the Spurs.
No, he’s not taking his talents to Boston — or to Revere Beach, as one Twitter friend put it. But what’s wrong with imagining it? Hell, we were all witnesses to when LeBron became a true winner …
… his 45-point game in Game 6 of the Eastern Finals two years ago. Now that was transcendent, and only the closest thing we’ve seen to the ’86 Celtics — the current Spurs — has been able to cope with him since. And it may not even be his greatest feat. Go back and look at those Cavs rosters from his early years. It wasn’t Boobie Gibson dragging him to the Finals, you know?
I get not liking LeBron as a rival because he’s ruined a few dreams around here. But not wanting him on the Celtics? Absurd.
One way or another, you’re not fooling anyone. You either haven’t watched him play, or you don’t know what your watching.
You don’t want LeBron on the Celtics? You don’t know the player or the game.