So, as a collective audience, can we finally appreciate the greatness that we are experiencing with LeBron James? When are we gonna stop with the charade of who’s the best player in the league when the answer is obvious?
After the Miami Heat defeated the Portland Trail Blazers 117-104 on Tuesday night, James put himselfdoubt into an exclusive club; himself. By scoring 30 points, James became the first player to score 30 points and shoot, at least, 60 percent from the field, eclipsing the previous five-game record held by Moses Malone and Adrian Dantley. In a year in which James has won NBA MVP, his first championship, Finals MVP, a gold medal and scoring his 20,000th point, the record is just the latest in accomplishments for James, who is gaining all sorts of comparisons with Michael Jordan.
The comparison is unfair. Why? We can compare stats, like how each player is an efficient scorer, have excellent Player Efficiency Ratings and have pantheon-level scoring averages, but that would be a disservice to both players. We’ve never seen anyone like James in the league before. We’ve had guys like Jordan, before there was a Jordan. Julius Erving carried the crown of an elite wing player before Jordan and Kobe Bryant has tried to replicate Jordan’s career since Jordan left the game. Name someone who was James before he was. You can’t. James is a basketball savant. He can score from just about anywhere on the floor, has an uncanny court vision and can be, at times, a defensive monster. His size, speed and athleticism is unmatched by any player in history. I don’t think it can be said better than by the king himself. In a tweet after the victory against the Trailblazers, James let people know his thoughts on the comparisons by posting “I’m not MJ, I’m LJ.” He’s correct.
One thing that should be compared is the appreciation shown to a great player in their primes, not the players themselves. Both Jordan and James had to endure the stigma of not being great in some people’s eyes because they had yet to win a title. It took a championship to finally show people that Jordan was great and the same can be said for James. But we, as a fanbase, don’t do that. We want to validate the present by overwriting the past. Why is there this fascination with comparing every great player with Jordan, even if their games are nothing alike? Are we so desperate to dethrone Jordan as the “greatest player of all-time” for the sake of giving current players meaning in the history of the game? The goal should not be to crown a player the next (fill in the blank), but appreciate the history they create in front of us. Instead of comparing two players from different eras, let’s stick to the present and mention a player who is garnering MVP consideration along with James; Kevin Durant.
Now I am not saying that James and Durant are on the same level. James is a superior defender and is just entering his prime. Durant, on the other hand, is a fantastic scorer and is doing things that haven’t been seen in years. On course to win his fourth consecutive scoring title, Durant is on pace to become the first player to lead the NBA in scoring while joining the exclusive 50-40-90 club. Durant is doing this while averaging a career high in Field Goal percentage (52%), 3-point FG percentage (43%), Free-Throw percentage (90.4), assists (4.4), steals (1.6) and blocks (1.2). The level in which Durant has brought his game up is incredible. It’s the reason that Durant is in the conversation for MVP.
That brings us to tonight. The Heat will visit the Oklahoma City Thunder in a rematch of the Christmas Day match-up in which Miami got the best of the Thunder 103-97. Although it may be a game in mid-February, just before the All-Star break, which could mean nothing. At the same time, it can mean so much. Will the Heat sweep the season series? The Thunder can do themselves a huge service by winning a game against the team that they have lost five straight games to. Also, the win could be a confidence builder for a team looking to make it over the final hurdle to a championship with a win over the defending champions. We could look at the past to tell us about this match-up or look to what this game could mean for the future. Instead, let us just enjoy it.