Beware, I am about to venture into dangerous waters. I don’t follow the NBA. I’m not good with numbers. But while reading Mizzo’s interview with Dan LeBatard yesterday at The Starting Five, I was prompted to think about the immense pressure that is being placed on a kid of 22 years. When I was 22, I lived in a
basement garden-level apartment with my brother and did the dishes once a week. I had the skills to do better, but nobody, not even my parents, got on me as hard as NBA fans are getting on LeBron.
I wanted to compare LeBron’s first four years with those of Michael Jordan, but Jordan had four years of college and a NCAA championship under his belt by the time he was 22, and it still took him some time to become MICHAEL.
So I’ll be comparing LBJ to his contemporary, Carmelo Anthony, and the most successful straight-out-of high school player to date, Kobe Bryant. I’m using per-game averages from Basketball-Reference.com:
Um, do you see what I see? First of all, Kobe was allowed to grow into his role on a talented team, and finally began to look like the Kobe we know now by the fourth year of his NBA sojourn. ‘Melo and LeBron were putting up those numbers from the jump.
So let’s take Kobe out of the equation. Comparing Anthony and James, we see pretty much the same player, except for a whopping gap in assists going in LeBron’s favor, as well as a superior three point percentage.
Add to that the mpg measure, which has stayed north of 40 if averaged over LeBron’s entire career. The Cavaliers are riding this kid like a pony, and he’s responding like a man instead of a boy. I’m chewing my fingernails just writing this. And LeBron has never fallen prey to the dangers of a pro athlete’s life. Whether you think Kobe’s rape charges were trumped up or Carmelo’s suspension this season was warranted, you can’t deny that LeBron has never put himself in a position to face the music either in court or on the court.
Basically, we should be glad King James is this good already. For him to be on the cusp of the finals as the #1 option on his team is incredible. It’s not wrong for us to want more from him, but to expect it, and excoriate him when he fails to deliver is simply unrealistic. We’re basically punishing him for the league’s failure to be more interesting. Our hopes of caring about the finals rest on him getting there.
We should be yelling at David Stern, not LeBron.