How would it feel, performing tirelessly to earn a victory for the team and to yet come up short? How would it feel, when all your team has is you, while you have to face a full-fledged, well-rounded team on the opposite side? How would it feel when you are giving everything within your capacity, only to be let down by your teammates?
Sometimes you have to do the extraordinary just to be down by the superior synergy on the other side. There have been situations where people have failed and the thoughts would creep into your mind, why always them?
Lionel Messi is undoubtedly one of the best football players in the world. If his hat-trick didn’t come against Ecuador, Argentina would never have been on the flight to Russia. Yet, in the eyes of media, he is only an international failure.
Virat Kohli is probably the best batsman in the world. He was the only Indian player who dug deep in the swinging conditions of England, against two lead seamers James Anderson and Stuart Broad and played till the very last ball.
Kohli scored a fighting century to take India past the England total. The game was in balance till he got out in the second innings. But his wicket was the final nail in the coffin for India. The same situation arose in South Africa against the rampaging pace of Morne Morkel, Lungi Ngidi and Vernon Philander. Not to forget, the banter of the full Australian team against him in the 2014 tour. But how exactly is Virat depicted? A spoilt brat, an arrogant youngster and an overrated mediocre.
Sometimes what we do right is just not recognised but what we mess up is exploited to its very limits.
LeBron James is one such character in the field of basketball. A 6ft 8, 250lbs, bald man with a face of determination that even Ronda Rousey wouldn’t forge. A guy with supreme self-belief, a great extrovert and one who has the skill-set to back up his arrogance. LeBron is a monster on the floor.
The man is seen in his proper NBA jersey before the game, taking up the chalk and slamming his hands together. The puff of white dust is a glittering sign for the arrival of The King.
The pre-game ritual of LeBron is as close as it can get to a gorilla’s chest beats. It is an ominous sign for the opposition, irrespective of the crowd or current form. LeBron is no ordinary creature, his heavy build is well anchored by his unreal speed. He could chase down the break-away attackers and bully the ball out of their hand.
If he is smiling inside the arena at one moment, his face turns red hot showing a mass of streamlines in his forehead the very next. But the moment he is out of the floor, he suits up, puts a fine pair of sunglasses in his eyes, boots up and walks out of the arena without a drop of sweat in his head. The aura around the giant man is so massive, little would someone approach him for a post-game embrace.
This much of talent, this much of self-esteem and the ability to gloat without opening his mouth, portrays LeBron as a loved villain. There isn’t much you could find against him and even if you do he doesn’t care. This exhibitionist behavior doesn’t make him a crowd favorite at certain occasions. Still, there is no denying that he enjoys his life and he enjoys slamming the ball into the net, even if it is at the cost of flooring a defender.
It would feel that he is too much of an extrovert, a self-proclaimed King or an arrogant man who dictates terms inside the team. But he has the ability as a backup for his talks and his very humble beginnings are a testament to his grandeur. A father who had criminal records, who he has never known. A mother who worked tirelessly to make two ends meet. Not having a permanent home, having to move from apartment to apartment in the streets of Akron, Ohio. This was the crisis that a young LeBron went through.
LeBron’s mother wanted her son to be better off and left him to a local football coach, Frank Walker. The messenger of God in LeBron’s story, Walker was the one who put the big orange ball into the kid’s hands.
The young kid never looked back. Success after success, step after step, milestone after milestone, he didn't know how to lose and he still doesn’t know how to lose. Amongst the disturbing atmosphere for African origin people in America, he decided to join a predominantly white Catholic school called St. Vincent-St. Mary’s High School. While he did that, he put a stamp to the ‘black will suffer’ quote and he became that reason that the city of Cleveland is known to the world today.
If he had suffered so much in his childhood, it is his privilege to be him right now. He used to wear a band in his head, get into his opponent’s face, get into his teammates’ faces and even used to tell the coach how to play. He blasted his mates in press conferences about their poor games, but all that just like a loving father, who wants his brainchild to get better.
LeBron started at Cleveland, stuck with them, guided them through every step till the day came in 2007. Against the Detroit Pistons in game 5, he handled the ball, went through the defences alone and lay the ball up with 2.2 seconds on the clock. A play that Steve Kerr labelled Jordan-Esque. A play that Marv Albert reduced to the “greatest moment in play-off history”. Without the supporting cast LeBron could only just perform up to a limit, so he moved.
At Miami, along with Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, he formed a deadly trident that went to the NBA finals. LeBron received a wake-up call following his humbling loss to the Mavericks. From that moment, he left his villain persona and started to enjoy more. He enjoyed so much that he earned back to back Championships at Miami.
After his accomplishment, he didn’t cement his place in any history. He was scrutinized for leaving his own team. He was slammed for needing Wade and Bosh’s support for the title. He was slammed for not being a real sportsman by many a people. Yet, the Dark Knight of Cleveland had that feeling in his back of his mind, to get his home state a title. LeBron returned to his own, to the state of Ohio.
LeBron guided his home team to the finals but fell to the rising Golden State Warriors. He returned again to the face them and then went down to a 3-1 lead. Three games left, all three to be won, two of them at Golden State’s unforgiving Oracle Arena. LeBron for one more time in his career, decided to become the ultimate villain and a true black beast.
Piercing through the Golden State defences, dunking the balls hard, making his team play hard, LeBron didn’t falter at any step after that game 4. He showed his villainous persona when he rejected Stephen Curry and talked it right in his face. Curry was ejected in that game and yet the King came up in the post-match and said.
“Let’s not get mistaken about this (ejection), he is a great player” – LeBron James on Steph Curry
Golden State and Andre Iguodala could have sealed game 7 with a breakaway lay-up. LeBron rushed like a locomotive, trailing by almost a metre or two to Steph Curry. He jumped with all his might and blocked Andre Iguodala’s layup with one strong palm. That moment even though inferior to Kyrie Irving’s game-winning three, changed the tides towards Cleveland, away from home. The ‘traitor’ earned his home state an NBA title.
Following Kyrie’s departure LeBron had to take his game a notch higher. ‘The King’ never disappointed. He played till he broke. He handled the ball, grabbed the rebounds, shot threes, passed to the free man, everything by himself. LeBron depicted basketball in a nutshell last season. He applied Johan Cruyff’s football philosophy to basketball. He didn’t bash his players like a poor leader when they made mistakes. Otherwise he should have killed J.R.Smith for his poor decision, that cost Cleveland game 1 of the finals. He assumed his teammates would make mistakes and thus he was alive for each of the 48 minutes in a game. He picked out the right man for the right job with his passes, in the process making the team a bunch of lazy players who had to be fed with everything.
Why does LeBron have to do this all? Carry a team in his back, do all by himself, and make a 50 point effort against five all-stars of Warriors. Still falling down because of a mistake by his teammate and a poor official call in the clutch moment of the game. That feeling of doing everything right and still failing is beyond explanations.
Henry Poicare explained the love of a scientist for nature with his following words.
The scientist does not study nature because it is useful, he studies it because he delights in it, and he delights in it because it is beautiful.
If nature were not beautiful, it would not be worth knowing, and if nature were not worth knowing, life would not be worth living.
Henry Poincare’s words turn out to be an exact representation of LeBron James and Basketball. LeBron doesn’t play the game because it is useful for him. He could stop now and still be the greatest, he is not even close to well-to do, he is way above it. Kyrie Irving described basketball as an art form. In that case, it is an art form which is beautiful. It is more beautiful than the Van Gogh’s and the Picassos for LeBron. He loves the game and the game dances to his tunes. To be even more specific, LeBron is the scientist, studying the art called basketball, because he delights in it.
Everyone has an ideal which is the path for their endeavours. LeBron’s ideal is perfection. The way the ball is slammed in, to the way it is shot from distance, to the blocks on the opponent, to staring at opponents to death. LeBron is an ideal for all that can be done with the orange sphere.
There have been comparisons of many players to LeBron. Kawhi Leonard and Kevin Durant are two of those who people have thought worthy of being successors to LeBron. To be blunt, LeBron at year 15 looks in better shape than both the players. Kawhi and Durant couldn't beat Warriors with the well poised Spurs and OKC teams. LeBron beat Warriors with Kyrie by his side and he nearly beat them without him. A player of his standards could easily have earned rings by joining the Rockets or even Warriors. But LeBron didn't leave the team unlike Durant did. And now he has left Cavaliers but still his wounds remain and still he wants to beat the Warriors again.
As said by Albert Einstein, the sensation of the mystical is the greatest thing in life. There is no meaning in life if we can’t stand, be spellbound in awe and applaud the supernatural. There are things which are mere myths for us, which the human minds cannot comprehend. The realisation that the supernatural exists is the best knowledge. LeBron makes us wonder, much like Lionel Messi in his sport. How can someone be this good yet so underrated? That is the true essence of sport, the feeling of the existence of supernatural. LeBron makes us believe that paranormal is usual.
LeBron has performed at this level for so long that people are bored over seeing this. Bored of the same dunks, the blocks, the passes. Perfection is not boring, it is boring for the mere minds who cannot encapsulate the true essence of the sport. The artist can swish his brush to open the doors to a sight that is mystical. LeBron the artist is just needs the ball in his hands and he can do a Harry Houdini with the orange piece of sphere. Pulling out alley oops, behind the back between the legs, blocks, trash talks, muscle, LeBron has everything that defines the sport.
LeBron's previous season just glorifies his status as The King. The buzzer beaters, the demolition of the Raptors, the undoing of the Celtics and also making the Warriors sweat, this was an unreal James. A player is an MVP when he adds value to the team. Cleveland without LeBron wasn't winning 30 games last season. Yet so underrated that LeBron is, Harden took home the MVP award.
The bottom line still lies. Awards don't define a player. Team achievements don't define a player. A player's character, his work ethic, his artifice in the game, is what defines a player. Walking through the streets of Akron to lifting the NBA trophy at the home of the best team in NBA, LeBron's journey has been phenomenal. Thus he is the greatest of this generation if not any other.
The ultimate villain, Cleveland’s own, The King, LeBron James.Published 16 Oct 2018, 19:11 IST