Lebron : A Delusionary Tale by J. Senno of Trash Talk Sports

Los Angeles Lakers v Miami Heat

“A delusion is something that people believe in despite a total lack of evidence.” That is a quote from Richard Dawkins that is very apropos in an age where most people get their news from a feed on Facebook. We as a society take a fragment of an argument that we remember and regurgitate it in a haphazard manner that dilutes, discounts, or even changes the message, similar to what Tim ‘The Tool Man’ Taylor used to do with Wilson’s advice on Home Improvement.  So when we hear over and over that Richard Gere shoved a gerbil in his ass, or Jamie Lee Curtis is a hermaphrodite, or that Lebron James isn’t clutch, we don’t delve deeper into it because what fun is truth when lies are so delightfully titillating.

Si-cover_lebron_james_2002_0_0_0x0_442x575Lebron came into the league as the most hyped player to ever pan out. From his very first game we could see he was something special. He ran the floor with the ease and speed of Scottie Pippen, he had vision of the court like Magic, he had the strength of Karl Malone, the jumping ability of Dominique, and the ability to score at will and attack the rim like Jordan.  In his first year he helped increase Cleveland’s win total by 18 wins from the previous year and showed a basketball IQ that was well beyond his young age.  They improved the next year to 42 wins in 2004-05, then 50 wins and a finals loss in 06-07, then 2 straight 60 win seasons. All the while he was carrying a bunch of has been and never was players up and down the court while being coached by Bunson from the Muppets (Mike Brown).  The best player he had was Carlos Boozer early in his career who left to go hang out with Mormons and color in his hairline with a sharpie (Lebron should try this instead of hanging out to scraps like Malone did).  There were some people who didn’t like him but these were soulless contrarians like Skip Bayless who will argue that pizza sucks and babies are stupid if they think it will piss you off.

All the while he was the symbol for good that Batman wished of Harvey Dent. He didn’t drive drunk, he didn’t get involved in domestic disputes, he didn’t try to make a rap album and at no point did he ever rape anyone.  He was well liked and a media darling, but our society is cynical and after awhile we get bored with something if there is no dirty laundry. Even Hulk Hogan had to stop telling us to eat our vitamins and say our prayers for us to begin to appreciate him again.

The only difference is Hulk was asking for it, he was spray painting people, yelling at fans, and demanding you hate him whereas Lebron was still asking for us to cheer him. Men complain that girls don’t like nice guys, but neither do we, why else would we be so fascinated by Charles Barkley and John Daley.  It was time for his turn to heel and if he wasn’t going to give us reasons then we would create them.

It started with Lebron taking off his jersey and walking off the court after another tough loss in a series where he did as much as he could to help his team lose.  I am a sore loser and never shook hands with the opposing team after a loss so I didn’t understand what the big deal was anyway.  Then there was the decision which was reviled as shameless self promotion where all the proceeds went to charity. In a different world with a different media these stories could have been covered differently. Lebron walking off the court should have been covered as him being an intense competitor who was tired of losing and ‘The decision’ could be seen as a necessary evil in an attempt to give back to the community.

pxplyrlebronjamesundressed1

Everyone has that one friend that no matter what they do it just pisses you off. “Oh he bought me a beer, he would do that just so I look like a jerk when I say I don’t like him what a prick.” Lebron became that friend; if he was walking and he stepped on a crack we knew it was to break his mother’s back for what she did to Delonte West.

He still kept going out and putting up points and playing solid defense, but we even started to attack his play for the first time. It was like a girl who bragged how good her boyfriend was in bed and how big his penis was, but now that she was tired and wanted to move all of the sudden ‘he’s not that big and he’s actually kind of selfish.’  Now Lebron was not clutch and he was ‘afraid’ to take the big shot.  When Jordan passed it to Paxson for a 3 he was a selfless visionary, when Lebron passed it to Ray Allen for a 3 in a crucial moment he was a scared little bitch.

After awhile it started to get to him because if you hear something enough you start to believe it. Like the boyfriend who continues to hear he is not that good in bed he started to press and got out of his element and what did he get a bunch of failed rim-jobs. Two things can happen with stress, the first is you can express it outward which we respect as a society because it shows you have balls when you start yelling at people and manning up. The other way you can handle it is turn it inward which he did, he became aloof and reserved when he had always been affable and gregarious.  We as ‘fans,‘ ‘analysts,’  ‘announcers,’ and humans did it we broke him…. or so we thought.

Lebron tuned us out, he tuned us all out and took the stance ‘Oh if its fuck me, then you know its fuck you.’ Finally he didn’t want us, didn’t need us, and we were smitten all over again. We were like school girls waiting at his locker asking if he was going to the party later, and he was saying to us ‘I don’t know, maybe I’ll catch you later.’ Now we had the vapors again, so we switched the script, now he was a driven freak of nature brought here to play basketball for our joy and adulation. The Heat won the title and people were coming out of the woodwork to say they always believed.

NBA: MAR 04 Heat at Lakers

There was the quick synopsis of Lebron’s career the soap opera version of it. Now that we got through exposition part lets get to the exciting part … Math.  First lets address this clutch argument because it is preposterous, Lebrons’ win shares go up from .235 in the regular season to .243 in the playoffs, if you don’t like ‘new’ stats, how about this his points, blocks, and rebounds all go up in the playoffs with assists and steals staying stagnant.  Since 2000 he has shot 46% in clutch moments as opposed to 39.7% for Kobe and since 2006 he has hit 46.6%. Lebron has also shot 41% on game winning shots versus Kobe at a mere 25%. Look at the graph below with his stats in clutch situations. He has been the top 5 in scoring in these situations which would be pretty hard if he in fact was ‘scared to miss the big shot.’

year pts per 48 minutes Shooting % rank
2011-2012

40.4

45.3

5

2010-2011

45.1

43.6

4

2009-2010

66.1

48.8

1

2008-2009

55.9

55.6

2

2007-2008

74.9

48.4

1

Ok now that we got that out of the way lets go to the next argument, ‘he is not a winner.’ When he left the Cavaliers they won 19 games after winning 67 with him the year before that’s a 352% decrease. Take any player off any other team and it doesn’t have that effect. Without Jordan the Bulls still made the playoffs and made decent runs behind Kukoc and Pippen. If you use the argument that those guys were better than the guys Lebron left in Cleveland it just furthers my point that nobody could have won with that scrap yard of a team. Jordan only had 1 title at this point, Bryant rode Shaq’s prime to 3 titles at this point before a 7 year break so he still has time to catch up to these guys.

imagesCAXMT2E9

The next argument you here is yeah Lebron is great, but he will never be able to touch Jordan or for that matter Kobe. See the chart below this is up to 28 years of age. Jordan has the edge over Lebron in shooting percentage, steals, blocks, pts per game, and win shares. Lebron has the edge in rebounds and assists. Looser rules on hand checking could be argued helped Jordan’s steals, but it hurt his scoring so it’s a moot point.

Name

G GS MP FG% 3P% FT% TRB AST STL BLK TOV PF PTS ws
Lebron

719

718

28648

0.486

0.334

0.746

5200

4963

1242

608

2385

1370

19839

140

Lebron

719

718

39.8

0.486

0.334

0.746

7.2

6.9

1.7

0.8

3.3

1.9

27.6

0.235

Kobe

784

636

28379

0.453

0.337

0.838

4073

3561

1170

467

2285

2111

19296

110

Kobe

784

636

36.2

0.453

0.337

0.838

5.2

4.5

1.5

0.6

2.9

2.7

24.6

0.186

Michael

589

578

22775

0.519

0.284

0.847

3697

3507

1594

623

1799

1756

19000

130.4

Michael

589

578

38.7

0.519

0.284

0.847

6.3

6

2.7

1.1

3.1

3

32.3

0.275

At this point Michael has Lebron overall and Lebron obviously has the edge over Kobe in overall performance. Clutch moment statistics don’t go back as far on 82games to Jordan’s hey-day, but some websites report that he shot 50-55% in the clutch which I can certainly believe. So the edge goes to Jordan as far as pure efficiency and player.

nba_g_jordan2_sw_580But what about overall legacy, does longevity trump dominance? There will always be the ‘what if’ argument for Jordan since he retired twice, once while in his prime. We could try to quantify his statistics and extrapolate them over the years he missed, but who knows if his knees hold up for his Wizards run and we can only truly measure the statistics for when he was on the court. Hank Aaron had the homerun record and then Barry Bonds, but most people wouldn’t consider them better homerun hitters than Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx, or even Ralph Kiner in his short run (look it up.)

Lebron has been amazingly durable and has played in over 90% of his games in every season. He also has the frame where he can adapt and have longevity playing more in the block. Its’ upsetting that we lost several years of Jordan’s career, but below you will see at what age Lebron will catch Kobe and Michael’s count statistics and when Kobe catches Michael.

Legacy FGA 3PM FTM ORB DRB TRB AST STL BLK PTS ws
Lebron will catch Kobe at 34 33 33 31 33 29 30 29 31 28 32 30
Lebron will catch Michael at 39 33 28 31 36 29 31 29 37 32 33 33
Kobe will catch Michael at 39 34 34 34 37 34 35 34 40 41 35 39

As you can see Lebron is at least a year ahead of Kobe in every statistics with some like blocks, assists, rebounds and win shares where he is not far behind. As far as Michael, if Lebron continues on his pace he will pass Michael in most areas by 33 with only steals and offensive rebounds taking longer. Both Kobe and Lebron had the advantage of starting their career earlier and not taking sabbaticals. It is the age long question of quantity over quality. Karl Malone stayed around a long time and is 2nd all time in points scored ahead of Jordan does that make him a better scorer than Jordan, no. Does the fact that he has the 3rd highest win shares ahead of Jordan mean he was more valuable than Jordan, no.

“People ask me if I could fly, I said, yeah.. for a little while.” Michael Jordan said that and it is very fitting to describe his career. He did fly and fly higher than anyone for a little while and at the end of the day we will remember the light that shines brightest even if it is for a shorter time.

Alot of the time you will hear, “you have to try this burger it’s the best,’ or ‘that restaurant has the best sushi” and sometimes I am reluctant to try it. My issues with are twofold, first because what you say is the best, is the best fit for you, or best based on your preferences. My second issue is once something is the best in your mind won’t everything else pale in comparison. Now I will only be fully satisfied with that one burger or one place for sushi. Even with all these statistics available today it is still subjective who is the best player, some people argue Magic, some argue Jordan or Russell, and I think when it is all said and done Lebron will be in the conversation. All I’m asking is when that conversation comes up we don’t point out that Lebron, ‘wasn’t clutch’ or wasn’t a ‘winner’. Right now Lebron is a rodeo burger from Burger King and Michael is a Big Mac, both very enjoyable in their own way. To me, so far, I am not willing to label anyone the best basketball player or best burger because I want to be able to enjoy the here and now, and preferences change, at one time I detested olives now I consider them with indifference, now that’s a change we can believe in.

lebron-ring

J. Senno

Trash Talk Sports

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s