Thursday, June 7

Reilly on LeBron

Like this column wasn't going to be fun to mess around with...

Rick Reilly
LeBron being LeBron

Two of my favorites!

This whole We Hate LeBron thing reminds me of a story.
Do tell.

A woman is in front of an apartment house that's engulfed in flames. She's screaming, "Help! Help! My baby's in there!"

A man sprints up and says, "Which floor?"

"Tenth!" she screams. "In the back!"

He rips off his coat and goes running in. Five minutes later, he's back, coughing, choking, and handing the woman the baby.

She looks at the man with a frown and sniffs, "He had a hat."

That's life for LeBron James.

Not the way I would have gone about making my point, but I understand. Expectations are certainly high for LeBron.

Anything short of an NBA title makes James a useless wad of pre-chewed pork gristle in your eyes. Whatever he does - three MVPs in nine seasons - it's never enough.
I will never understand where this guy gets his similies. Even disregarding its strangeness, his one is not particularly apt. I will regard him as the best basketball player in the world, regardless of the Heat's fate in these playoffs. However, it's hard to deny that he's set himself up in a situation where not winning the title would viewed by him and many observers as a disappointment. This isn't particularly complicated.

You hate him - still! - for the way he botched the announcement of his free-agent move from Cleveland to Miami.
Also how he quit on the Cavs before he left, don't forget that.

Forget that hundreds of people move from Cleveland to Miami every year.
I will, because it has absolutely nothing to do with your thesis whatsoever. A completely disingenuous argument. Rick, surely you can offer me better than this.

Forget that dozens of NBA players change teams every year.
We are not going to sit here and pretend like LeBron bolting Cleveland to join the South Beach Superfriends (quite possibly colluding in violation of league rules) is the same as Ramon Sessions going to the Lakers, are we? We are not. Another disingenous "point."

It was only one mistake. Has he showed up in any police reports since? Has he cheated on his fiancée ? Has he left his children stranded in the pick-up circle at school?
We have set our standards low indeed.

Has he refused to speak to reporters after a single game this season? Has he called out his teammates for their poor play, as Kobe Bryant did twice this postseason? Has he gotten his coach fired? Been fined for criticizing refs? Asked to be traded, released or named general manager?
1) Don't know, 2) probably but not publicly, 3) no, 4) don't know, 5) no, and the GM part is ridiculous because Dwyane Wade is already the Heat GM.

Has he punched anybody? Choked anybody? Screamed at any parking valets? (Mom doesn't count.)
Why are we still doing this?

Smashed a chair? Drop-kicked any equipment? Tiger Woods does that on the front nine.
[Falls asleep.] Oh right, your point was that LeBron doesn't deserve the animosity that comes his way because he hasn't done anything seriously wrong. And I agree with that. What Reilly seems unable to do is separate Sports Hate from Actual Hate. Sports Hate is when you don't like a player, often irrationally, because he plays for a rival, or went to a college you don't like, or, to take a random example, held a one-hour primetime special to announce that he was leaving your favorite team. This is different than Actual Hate. I don't actual-hate LeBron - no one does - I just don't like him within the context of sports because he's not on my team and I don't care for the way the Heat were assembled. This is so much different than genuinely hating someone, and Reilly seems determined not to grasp the distinction.

OK, LeBron is not perfect. Threw a Gatorade cup. Punched a walking stick. Carries that stupid little man purse. But if you were to fill a plane with the most spoiled superstars in the country, he'd be boarding in the D group.
Disagree. I think enough stories were written about the special treatment James received from the Cavaliers to pretty handily refute this claim.

You despise him because he passes too much.
STRAWMAN ALERT! No one despises LeBron because he passes too much. This assertion makes my head hurt.

Imagine that. You hate a modern NBA player for not being selfish.
[Sigh.] To the extent that LeBron receives some criticism for passing, it involves late-game scenarios where the analyst thinks that passing, in that particular instance, doesn't give the Heat the best chance to win. This is so much different than Reilly's generalized notion of some non-existent fan that hates LeBron for passing.

OK, I'd like to see him use his bag of hoop tricks to drive more at the end of games, too. But it's not like he hasn't done it, dozens and dozens of times, including huge fourth quarters against Boston and Chicago in last season's playoffs.

You people seem to want him to take it every single time, even with Dwyane Wade as a teammate.
Nobody wants this. Reilly is just dismembering this strawman, straw by straw.

And Chris Bosh. But it's The Big Three, isn't it? Not The Big One.
2.5, perhaps?

And just so you know: In playoff games, LeBron has taken 13 final shots in tight games in regulation and hit five of them to win or tie. Kobe has taken twice that and hit only seven. Can we all just take a Xanax?
This is at least partially a function of Kobe's clutch shotmaking being wildly, comically, exaggerated, a perception that ESPN's Henry Abbott completely dissected a while back.

Besides, he passes so exquisitely. His passes are clairvoyant, leading teammates to places they didn't even know they were supposed to go. They're as soft and buttery as croissants. Why wouldn't you want him passing?

And why is the hoops world so hypercritical of this one thing


when he's so brilliant at every other part of the game? Defense? He's guarded every position against the Celtics - the 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. "He's guarded everybody but me," says Celtics coach Doc Rivers.

Only Rajon Rondo is even close in all-around brilliance this postseason. James is second in points, fourth in steals, 10th in assists, second in minutes.

Again, he is easily the best player in the NBA. Even those who HATE HIM FOR PASSING recognize this.

He leads his team in double-doubles and the league in double standards. Wade missed an open jumper to lose Game 4 in overtime - how come he's not "scared"?
It was a three-pointer, in the interest of full disclosure.

Last year, you hated him for being a shrinker. Now you hate him for not being a closer.
Aren't these sort of the same thing? And I feel the need to reiterate that I don't hate LeBron for either of these reasons. I don't like him because he ditched the Cavs and formed this awful Frankenstein beach basketball team with shitty fans and had that stupid, stupid Dance Party.

Every game, he must CLOSE. Was Magic Johnson a closer? A few times, yes. Every freaking time? No. And by the way, most of the time James doesn't need to close because he has been so drop-your-popcorn good the entire game. LeBron good?

Aren't we still playing the game of basketball?
Isn't this America? I thought this was America!

What happened to attacking the defense where it's softest?
The NBA made that illegal in 2006. I'm sorry, it was such a dumb question, I couldn't come up with a proper answer. Every team tries to do this on every possession, every game. LeBron happens to be very good at it.

What's wrong with looking for the open shot? Aren't his 12 teammates getting paid, too?
LeBron makes more salary than the bottom 10 members of the Heat roster combined. I think it's fair to expect more. Not saying he doesn't give more - saying this is a dumb way to argue it.

People - enough. This whole "Crown or Drown" thinking on James has to stop. Grown men are actually strapping microphones to their ties and saying that if James doesn't win the title, the Heat ought to be broken up.
Have you examined the substance of those arguments? It's been pointed out that James and Wade play a very similar style of game and that having both on the same team might not be the most efficient type of offense. I'm not saying that breaking up the Heat is the right thing to do, only that it can't be rejected out of hand.

For what? For making the Finals last year? For making (at least) the Eastern finals this year? James has been with these guys only two seasons. It took Michelangelo four years to paint the Sistine Chapel. You people would've fired him in two?
These are exactly the same two situations.

But I think the reason you hate LeBron James the most is that he just doesn't seem to suffer his failures as much as you'd like him to. You want him to brood like Kobe after losses, glare like Jordan when things don't go his way, scream at teammates like Tom Brady when they're behind.
Almost nothing in the world is less important to me than how LeBron James reacts to losses.

That's not James. His spirit is too light. He's too much fun. He's a 6-foot-8 pixie, a 27-year-old kid who's addicted to kidding. He's a genuinely sweet person. You think of the great athletes of our generation - Jordan, Woods, Lance Armstrong. They all had a bit of the jerk gene in them. James is missing it. He is loved by his teammates, not feared. So sue.

That's probably going to work against him in the long run. It will keep him from being Jordan or Kobe or Kareem. It will keep him from being enough.
So..."enough" is the last word in that sentence?

But isn't that somebody you want your kids to have as their hero?
I'm not sure I'd want my non-existent kids to have any athlete as a hero, but if I did have to pick one, I think I'd look elsewhere.

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