LeBron James: to respect or not to respect?

“Not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven…”

LeBron James compounded the disgust that NBA fans outside of Miami had for him with these words. In an extravagant party for three players—two of which hadn’t even donned the Heat uniform on the court—LeBron James declared the Heat would win at least eight championships. The tattoo on his back, “The Chosen 1” wasn’t enough. Gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated as a high school basketball player wasn’t either. Even the despised “Decision” that aired on ESPN drew criticism that has still simmered lightly over the now NBA champion.

One of the first columns I wrote here on Bases and Baskets briefly touched upon this subjects and I concluded those thoughts with the general idea that we are all “just as mixed as before [LeBron’s move to Miami].” Some people are able to forgive him for the attention-seeking saga that enveloped the summer of 2010. Some people hate him for creating a superpower empire that looked down upon most NBA franchises. Some people are, well...Cavs fans.

To wherever you fit into the spectrum, my new proposition is simple: the dust has settled and LeBron has finally earned his title but more importantly evolved both on and off the court. Now we need to collectively respect LeBron James as a great player and ambassador for the game that we love.

Most superstars have egos through the roof. Kobe Bryant has ripped Pau Gasol, alienated teammates from Shaquille O’Neal to Smush Parker, and done countless other things that he thinks his Hall of Fame resume has entitled him to. The man is one of the greatest basketball players to grace this planet and he knows it, he worked for it, and he is going to revel in it.

Kobe will always have a home in Hollywood and his dedication to that organization is remarkable (even with the bumps in the roads…remember those multiple trade requests?) but he and other sports icons a la Michael Jordan don’t care too much whether people like them or not. And since they are that good, well…does it really matter?

Many would simply: no. While I agree that ultimately a player’s greatness and NBA legacy is determined by their on-court performance—as it should be—there is another part that should not be neglected: the people that idolize the NBA’s greatest.

Here is where we need to realize that LeBron James is the best ambassador that the NBA has ever seen. Google defines ambassador as “a person who acts as a representative or promoter of a specified activity.” With the on-court greatness that LeBron exhibits, he has become an international figure who benefits more so than Kobe or MJ from the Internet Age. People (like me) can write about him and analyze his effect on the game in a way that Jordan simply did not have available during his heyday as a player.

Perhaps a deeper scrutiny of MJ’s character would have forced him to change or maybe it would have highlighted more glaringly his character flaws. Either way, there is no way that the two major ambassadors of the game prior to LeBron (Michael and Kobe) were as ideal for the position. It’s just that their basketball ability muffled their arrogance and drama.

I have already written that we should not be surprised if LeBron drops in a greater performance this year as compared to last. Thus far his 26 points, seven assists, and nine rebounds per game complement an unfathomable 54 percent FG shooting and 44 percent three-point shooting. All of this with defenses improved overall and honing in on him in their game plans. Let us not forget that this is coming from a guy whose main basketball flaw was a lack of an outside shot.

So yes, I have dared to compare LeBron to Jordan.

But the reason why I respect LeBron is the way that he has ascended to where is he—and where he will be once his career is over. In one season, LeBron realized that in order to succeed he needed to wholeheartedly buy into the team effort and atone for the egregious mistakes that he made during the summer of 2010. Behind opting to make The Decision nationally televised was a hint that there is something in LeBron unlike previous superstars. People forget that that “show” raised $2.5 million for the Boys and Girls Clubs in Ohio and he still continues his charity work in Akron.

While those acts of generosity were hidden behind the superficiality of the show, a lot has changed since then. The mayor of Akron even went far enough to say, in 2012, that LeBron is the “greatest Akronite.”

Basketball, as a popular American game, represents so much to kids in the US—from inner city Chicago to rural California. And who would you rather have a wide-eyed basketball fan idolize? A self-centered superstar or somebody who cares not only about his teammates and fans but about the community?

The answer to me has been clear. 

The cliché goes that “America is the land of second chances,” and LeBron has done far less harm than the quantifiable acts of someone like a Tiger Woods, Michael Vick or Lawrence Taylor (among many others). Most importantly, LeBron has grown up and realized the error in his ways and changed under his own power.

Regardless of what anybody said of him, he took the responsibility to apologize for some tasteless remarks and decisions. Simultaneously, the Akron native figured out what it meant to become a champion on the court. Was it a coincidence that the two happened in the same year?

I’m not from anywhere remotely close to Akron or Miami but I recognize when a person has grown into what the game of basketball is all about. In the end, it is "just a game" but the applications of this beautiful game to daily life are what make it special. That is where LeBron is head and shoulders above previous NBA superstars…but I would be remiss to neglect the fact that Kevin Durant is competing for that spot.

As a Warriors fan, I cannot tell you how ecstatic I was to see my team beat the Heat on Wednesday. (And *cough* how pleased I was to have picked Golden State to come away with that win, too.)

But every game that LeBron is not playing the team that I root for, you can bet that I will be cheering for him. The self-confidence he exudes does not overpower a sense of humility that took him some time to grow into. Now the question becomes: how long will it take NBA fans to fully appreciate this change and realize what he is doing for the NBA and its worldwide influence?

In the meantime, I will enjoy the on-court entertainment and skill set of LeBron James with a respect that he is intelligent enough to realize what he means to everybody from those closest to him to those fans thousands of miles away from him.

Will you?


  1. lillard a mini-westbrook? come on man, how much ball do u watch? stop writing stuff just to sound cool, their games aren't even close to being comparable. one is an attack-first PG, while the other looks to create space due to his shooting range.

  2. Sure it's not a perfect comparison but yup, Lillard is to some extent a mini-Westbrook. I even highlighted a difference in the article. And yes, I've watched both quite a good amount. Have you?

    I also meant it in particular reference to their athleticism. But also if you'd care to check out the stats before you comment, that'd be useful. Both take roughly 75% jump shots and shoot about 65 percent of the time in the first 15 seconds of the shot clock. I think the similarities in their games would be highlighted even more if they had similar teammates but one relies on a big man with a good post game while the other relies on one of the best pure scorers in the game. One has room to work inside because his star teammate doesn't clog the paint while the other does.

    Not to mention Westbrook's game has evolved over the years and as a rookie Westbrook did rely even more heavily on the pull-up jumper.

  3. I think you hit on some really interesting points, Matt, and I actually wrote an article on HoopsVibe about this very topic a bit ago. I even went so far as to say that MJ is overrated! http://www.hoopsvibe.com/features/284579-why-michael-jordan-is-overrated Two of my main points: 1) his marketability drove him to sky-high status and 2) young people today and the internet.

    Your point about social media in the past is great. Just thinking about the outrageous things that someone like Dennis Rodman would've said on twitter in his playing days?? LOL!

  4. Thanks appreciate it. I'm honored to be a part of B&B.

    It's really interesting you brought that point of MJ being over rated because that was going to be my original stance on this very article.

    It was going to be why MJ seems a bit over rated with the growth of technology. Because of what you mentioned his marketability makes him seem like he had 10 Rings, and 10 MVP's (which most people think he could have had) and 10 championship MVP's

    And then you have the internet. It's really hard to find a flaw in MJ's career so people take that and run with it and make him seem like god.

    And yes your I watched the courtship rivals with Bird and Magic which showed how it took the NBA to new heights as you mentioned and then MJ should kept the train going on an upward hill.

    Imagine Charles Barkley, MJ, Worm, Magic, and many other players with Larry Bird having nothing to do with twitter or FB hahah. I didn't mention it but I could see more of teams coming together like the Celtics and Heat did back in the day especially in the Jordan era when the Bulls were unstoppable I def think it would have happened then to try and dethrone them.

  5. No problem man, really liked the idea in this article. I would argue, though, that it's not so much that it's hard to find a flaw with MJ, it's just that the only things we see are his amazing dunks and game-winning shots. I wouldn't be surprised if the totality of the highlights that we see on SportsCenter re: MJ's playing days boil down to less than 10 total games or so. We see his BEST and overrate him because when you take the best highlights of an already great player, you really bias the portrayal of him. It'd be like seeing re-runs of LeBron's game-winner vs. the Magic or incredible finish in that playoff game vs. the Pistons where he scored the final 29 points. Or his insane game vs. the Celtics in the '12 ECF. If those were all the highlights we saw, who knows what we'd think about LeBron? But we see his work on a daily basis, including his losses against a rookie guard on the 76ers. MJ benefits from being a historical figure in the Internet age.

    And I know! Picturing those guys on Twitter or FB is hilarious.. I'm sure it would've made for some great off-court entertainment. I have a feeling MJ might have shied away from a social media presence, but maybe not back in the day. He doesn't talk much now with the media but back in the day who knows?

  6. Yeah MJ loved the attention though he was always on the streets of Chicago before the game talking with masses of people. He reeally loved the attention. So idk really I'd say yes.

    And that's true I mean MJ was a top 5 offensive player of all time and a top 5 perimeter defender its hard to find players especially on the wing who were historically great at both certainly not on the same level. So that combined with the highlights which does go back to marketability sure I could see him as overrated. Especially when B/R said he would beat Wade 21-0 pff yea right. Maybe 21-10 is more realistic Wade was a poor mans Jordan but not that poor.

  7. Wow someone said 21-0? That's just straight disrespectful considering Wade is an all-time great himself. On Jordan's level...definitely not, but he would be able to get a basket, without question. Do you happen to have a link to that article on hand?

  8. First time I've ever been 100% correct for predictions! Not bad...

  9. But Lebron likely won't finish his career as many great games as MJ. And likely won't come close to 6 titles

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  11. Because lamp

  12. LMAO some guy just spammed you.

    And I disagree on this. Yes, a 5k fine one time for Harden isn't a big deal at all, but nobody likes losing money, and when it becomes 5 5k fines, a player will probably adjust his style of play at least somewhat. I think you bring up a great point that the "softness" label that gets applied to floppers is the largest deterrent, but I have no problem with the league office getting involved and providing another disincentive.

  13. Haha yeah he did. It's weird because usually Disqus filters that stuff out but thought it was funny regardless. "NBA 2k14" as a username is quite comical.

    I really think that in the grand scheme of things even 5 $5k fines won't do anything. It's all the softness label in media coverage, etc. that will bring about change in these players.

  14. I completely agree with you here. I really think Dwyane Wade is a great example to. He, like Kobe, was the star of his team. But unlike Kobe he gave up his role of lead dog when a new star came to town in order to win, and just look at how it has paid off! He's now doing cartwheels behind LBJ during post game interviews haha.

  15. Looks like a lot of other readers also agree with you, Angelo! Yeah I think you hit the nail on the head. It really comes down to the fact that Kobe has his own style and that style has and will prove to be ineffective in a league that demands more than one alpha-dog to be a champion.

  16. "Kobe Bryant does not care about winning as much as LeBron, Durant, and Duncan" Wow

    If he did, there would have been no feud with Shaq.
    You mean the feud that The Buss' created because they didnt want to sign Shaq to a max?

    There would have been no ousting of Phil Jackson.
    Don't believe he caused this

    There would have been no demands to be traded when the wins faded in the mid-00s (largely thanks to his desire to dismantle the great pieces around him).
    Lol by great pieces do you mean Smush Parker Kwame Brown Luke Walton Chris Mihm?
    Asking to be traded proves he wants to win... By asking to be removed from a losing team with no pieces around him it shows he wants to win even more

    And there certainly would not have been a $49 million contract over two years that all but voids any relevancy of the Lakers in both a legendary draft class and a couple huge free agency periods.

    Salary cap will be 62 mill next season kobe takes up 23 mill
    Still have 40 left, the bench cost like a couple of million this year and its killing it
    Minus Nash' 3 million via stretch provision and Lakers have Kobe, a legit bench, Nash and roughly 32 million to spend which is more than enough

  17. Kobe wanted to prove that he could win without Shaq and as a result ousted one of the greatest players of all time. Don't you think it's ironic that Wade, like the earlier commentor mentioned, gravitated toward great players even if it meant that his individual "greatness" had to decline? I'm not sure about you but to me, ousting a great player looks a lot less like a desire to put your team in a position to win a championship than adding other capable and great players. Direct quote from Kobe: ""There's things that I wanted to do with my career and take my career to another level, that I was just incapable of doing as long as [Shaq and I] were playing together." That's putting yourself over winning.

    And by great pieces, I mean Shaq, Phil, Dwight, and (a younger, less reckless) Bynum.

    Also, with regards to your figures about the salary cap next year...they're simply false. As Kelly Scaletta of B/R wrote in a recent article, the Lakers, because in large part to Kobe, have less than $25 million to work with. The exact figure that he gave was $13-15mil IF they dropped Blake and Gasol. If Gasol is the "brother" that Kobe claims he is, then Gasol should be there to stay. We'll see what happens there because we all know how loyal Kobe is to his teammates...

  18. I think you are mistaking winning and personality. Kobe has a strong personality which drives people away not his lack of desire to win
    I hope you are not implying Phil was driven out after the Dallas sweep which would be flat out wrong. Earlier in his career yes but he returned
    Dwight fair enough and rightly so. Bynum traded no Kobe driving him out there

    'Kelly Scaletta' Like most B/R writers is flat out wrong. I have done my own research and consulted LA Times writers evidence so I wouldn't believe everything you read on Bleacher. Lakers have 35 million out of 62 million next year tied up. Minus 6 million bc they will use the stretch provision on Nash and you have only 29 out of 62 million tied up leaving 33 million
    Which as Kobe and the Lakers have said is enough for a Max and then some
    Roster is: Nash, Kobe, Nick Young (Sacre) and 33 million, keeping in mind many of the bench are playing for about a mill.

    Lets give Wes Johnson, Henry, Meeks, Farmar and Hill the same salary that total comes to roughly 8 million still leaving 25 million left over which is enough for a max and a bit
    So now we have nash kobe Nick Young a fully fledged bench and a max plus a bit.
    These numbers are legit look them up from real sources if you don't believe me

    And remember personality clashes do not equal lack of desire to win which i think you have mistaken for here.

  19. I'm definitely not mistaking the two because Kobe's personality has confounded with his so-called desire to win. If he really wanted to win, he would have made these situations work. If he didn't oust Shaq, I would bet he has more rings that Jordan right now.

    I'm not sure how Kelly is wrong because factually what he says makes sense. I've heard the number floated around that it's in the range of $23 million or so (and Melo would have to take a small paycut if he were to sign with LA) but Scaletta's figures do add up. You neglected in your figures the cap holds that he talks about in his article "Did Kobe Bryant choose his worth over a sixth ring?" It's $9.6 million for the bench and that's IF they drop Pau.

    You haven't yet discussed Pau and he is again supposed to be exactly what Kobe would want in a real "brother." A thing here that I find ironic is that Kobe and LeBron do the same thing: they get what they want by adjusting the players around them (although LeBron actually attracts good players). The difference is that Kobe is deemed "loyal" because he gets rid of players around him and gets others to come to LA. LeBron on the other hand simply says I'll switch teams because Cleveland doesn't have the market of LA and can't get big names. Then, he's bashed for being "disloyal." That's a bit of a tangent but you get my point.

    Kobe, through his personality, has proven he does not want to win at all costs. Like I discussed thoroughly in the article, he wants to win the way he wants to win - which is often not the best way for his team.

  20. Not a bad idea! The only reason that I didn't include draft picks is because the ESPN Trade Machine doesn't allow them but definitely flopping out Butler for a 1st rounder is a good option.

  21. OKC Gets screwed in the 4 team trade, we lost who starters and get 2 bench players, and it just hurts our Centre and Shooting Guard issues we have... OKC would never accept

  22. OKC gets the best part of this deal in my opinion. They get a top 5 defensive center in Asik. And a solid bench/upside guy in D-mo on a team friendly contract. They also get to dump Kendrick Perkins. They don't need Asik to score at all, all they need him to do is set picks, play defense, and crash the offensive and defensive boards. All of those things he is VERY VERY good at.

    I don't think this trade works because both the Bulls and the Rockets say no. I understand the Bulls flipping Deng and Boozer for a gunner like Anthony but Jimmy Butler is one of their only team-friendly contracts and the Bulls really do not want to pay too much luxury tax (Why is ownership in a huge market that cheap? I don't know). Also for their trouble they're gonna take Kendrick Perkins' awful contract? If Chicago is gonna blow it up why are they taking on more salary? Do you think that they can make a credible playoff push with next year with a Melo-Noah-Perkins-Rose core? Both Melo and Rose have high usage rates, and how is spacing going to work with Melo-Noah-Perk line-ups especially seeing as Melo has shown to be most effective at the 4.

    As for the Rockets I don't think Daryl Morey will lose cap flexibility to take on an aging power forward who doesn't fit in the fast paced system in place. That extra money that they're taking on for the last year of Boozer's contract is already earmarked for Parsons.

    I do hope this trade happens if only to see Thibs interact with Anthony though

  23. You hit on my points about the OKC part of the trade. I'm not sure how Dylan saw OKC getting the short end of the stick when they are getting arguably the second best player in my proposed trade.

    Maybe you're right with Houston but I just see the Rockets being in a "win-now" mode and Boozer absolutely puts them in a better position to win now because he also gets rid of Asik and his attitude.

    It's really tough to get inside the minds of the Bulls but yes, I really do think Melo, Rose, and Noah can absolutely lead a playoff push. I look at Thibs kind of as an unproven Belichick who can help control large egos and like you I would like to see (and I think it would work out) between Melo and Thibs.

  24. And who will back up Dwight when he's in foul trouble? Your're trading away 2 big men. They should get Reggie Jackson for Asik but develop D-Mo into a legitimate Center.

  25. That's a good point. Maybe keeping D-Mo is a good idea and trade Jackson instead. Not significant to the trade as a whole but I think that would definitely make it better. Asik is definitely on his way out of Houston. I think it remains to be seen what kind of value the Rockets can get for him after Asik quit because he wasn't happy with his PT.


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