Why we should stop taking LeBron James for granted
The other day, while trawling through a random Reddit thread for the umpteenth time this offseason, I read through a comment that resonated pretty deeply with me, and I feel like it would with most other basketball fans:
The MVP is decided based on all the factors that affect players and teams around the league. If it were to be given to the best player every year it should be called the LeBron James Award of Excellence.
The Celtics homer and superteam-hater in me screamed out at what I read as I rushed to press the downvote button, but a moment of pause later, it dawned on me that the guy was absolutely on the money about this.
Have we ever seen a player like LeBron James in any team sport? Hell, any sport? A physical specimen who has universally been recognized as the gold standard for his sport for the entirety of a decade - and arguments could be made for the period being a bit longer than that as well.
Sure, you can bring up names like Michael Jordan, Magic and Bird before him. Some will lump in Kobe with those names, and sure, these names deserve to all be bracketed together. But you have to realize that there is absolutely no guarantee that we'll ever see a player like LeBron again. I'm willing to bet a tenner against anyone convinced otherwise.
Like every sporting legend who exists in the public consciousness today, James has scripted for himself an indelible legacy that exceeds all the expectations that he's been burdened with for over half of his life.
If we're talking about his personality as a whole, and not just his basketball achievements and ability, I truly don't think we appreciate him enough. A significant chunk of social media commentary on James focuses on belittling and minimizing what James means to millions of basketball players worldwide today.
It's not that voices from the opposite faction don't exist. They do, and honestly, the way ESPN and other networks covering the NBA have been pushing his Greatest of All Time narrative has come off as force-feeding a false notion to many fans of the truly wonderful game that basketball is.
As basketball fans, we may sway one way or the other from this narrative. But what we should never do as true sports fans is to belittle what LeBron represents to all of us who find themselves with a sense of belonging to the sports fraternity.
James has gone on a fairytale run ever since rising to basketball prominence. One could objectively make the case that he has utilized his abilities to the absolute maximum that even his biggest Stan would've expected 15 years back, when he was drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers with the #1 overall pick.
It is on account of James and his decision to form the first real superteam with 2 other superstars in the prime of their careers that basketball fans have been treated to a much higher quality of basketball over the course of this decade. He enabled players like Kevin Durant, Chris Paul and Paul George, among others, to join forces with other superstars in their prime and treat spoiled basketball fans like us to savour the thoroughly watchable brand of a game that had languished in mediocrity for the majority of the noughties.
It is because of James that players who would otherwise be miscast as traditional big men (Giannis, Ben Simmons and Nikola Jokic, to name a few) have taken on the role of playmakers and led their teams to noteworthy success.
But above all, we owe James a huge thank you for embodying nothing but model gentlemanly behaviour and philanthropic work off the court, and a warrior's mentality on it.
James is one-of-a-kind. Try as we might with whatever mental gymnastics we can conjure up in our minds, we'll never see a player like him ever again. Let us all savour his God-like play while he's still at our prime (as a number of us have with Messi and Ronaldo over the years), instead of being petty and poking fun at inconsequential stuff. As sports fans, we must hold ourselves to higher standards than we're currently pegging at.