Now, before we get into this, I have to leave a disclaimer. I think LeBron is the best basketball player the NBA has seen and will likely see for a long time. The amount of the scrutiny the guy has received as a kid fresh out of high school has been handled with a poise suited to a seasoned politician.
That being said, these upcoming playoffs are yet another big step LeBron must cross. I know, it seems like every year LeBron has something else people feel he is obligated to prove, and after 7 NBA Finals appearances, the King deserves some slack. However, the expectations for LeBron in the 2017 post-season are a heat check of sorts.
A lot of the animosity towards LeBron is generated by the Cavaliers’ lackluster regular season performance. Not only are the Cavaliers losing games to extremely beatable opponents, LeBron has been sitting out games semi-regularly. Players sitting out has been a huge issue in 2017 for the NBA, and understandably so. As sports fans, we want to see teams giving it their all, not spend half the year watching the top teams throw exhibition games.
The glow of coming back from a 3-1 deficit against the defending champions in last year’s Finals faded much too quickly for the Cavaliers this season, and naturally LeBron haters are assuming their pre-postseason form.
The Answer to LeBron Sitting Out
During the 2011-2012 NBA season, LeBron played only 62 games, yet the Miami Heat shut down Oklahoma City in the Finals and LeBron won the Finals MVP (as well as the regular season MVP).
Granted, this was that one lock-out season where NBA teams played 66 games instead of the normal 82 games, but this doesn’t take credit away from the point: LeBron’s regular season is the post-season.
Kobe Bryant says LeBron James has earned the right to take a rest (VIDEO) https://t.co/07DxxxXWTD
— Kurt Helin (@basketballtalk) March 29, 2017
The Answer to LeBron Being Viewed as a Fading All-Star
People have really started to take LeBron’s style of play for granted. It’s not that he’s not playing at an extremely high level, it’s just not as appealing a narrative as other All-Stars. The Cavaliers are essentially guaranteed to cruise through the Eastern Conference playoffs, and each game is pretty much practice for them.
On the other hand, we’ve got the Russell Westbrook phenomena that is a much more exciting story: betrayed by his partner joining forces with the enemy, a young Russell Westbrook is tasked with putting the team on his back, and is winning in spectacular triple double fashion.
We’ve also got the James Harden storyline: one of the Oklahoma City trio is finally starting to fall into optimal performance levels and is leading the Rockets on a high scoring and exciting spree.
Or how about Isaiah Thomas: a 5’9 point guard coming out of seemingly nowhere reviving a dormant championship-level competitor and leading them to one of the best records in the Eastern Conference.
Or even Giannis Antetokounmpo and Devin Booker, two extremely young players dropping freakishly athletic dunks and having 70-point games.
While it may seem that LeBron’s talent is being overshadowed by other All-Stars – and All Star-calibre performances – it’s only the preseason, and the Cavaliers know this.
Here is LeBron James doing exactly what LeBron James does best pic.twitter.com/rykh3j00Ks
— Dime on UPROXX (@DimeUPROXX) March 28, 2017
At 32 years old, Lebron has been in the NBA for over a decade. He’s changed the face of the NBA and is going to surpass Michael Jordan’s legacy by the time he retires. Sure, the media can take jabs at him for taking an elbow in the back and leaving a game, but the guy has been essentially injury-free his entire NBA career. There are people who just got drafted in 2016 that have missed more games due to injury than LeBron.
All in all, wait until the playoffs to see LeBron back in action. This regular season LeBron is practice squad material.
Can’t stand for it anymore because of I ❤️ and will die right now for my Sport and for SPORTS in general. #JustMyOpinion
— LeBron James (@KingJames) March 27, 2017