This might be painful for Utah Jazz fans, simply because it praises and appreciates an obvious aspect of the Lakers, and no self-respecting Jazz fan likes to praise and appreciate any aspect of the Lakers, not even a very important obvious aspect.
But … heading into Friday night’s Game 5 of the NBA Finals, a game in which the Lakers could eliminate the Heat and gain yet another championship — the club’s 17th title overall, oops, sorry … it is rewarding, still.
That’s a name, not a sentence, but, in terms of basketball, it is a sentence. A declarative one. An aspect to watch and remember.
Darn near everybody knows how great LeBron is, and that’s demonstrated by the fact that he’s a single-name icon. LeBron is always enough for proper identification, probably globally. If not LeBron, then … King. There might be an isolated village in some little-known province somewhere deep in the outback where no one recognizes or cares about that name. But everywhere else, LeBron it is.
Whether you like him, his sometimes egocentric moves and manner off the court, and root for him, or not, what he has done during his remarkable playing career blows past just that. Not only is he the one player in the modern NBA who consistently cannot be stopped, he’s the grandest star in all of American sports.
He’s big, he’s strong, he’s fast, he’s talented. He can play and guard every position, always could. Dude is like a road-grader that moves like a Porsche. He’s got the build and body of Karl Malone and the skills of John Stockton. If that’s hyperbolic, it’s not by much. Not at all, actually. And the analytics and achievements back it up.
Nine NBA Finals in the past 10 seasons, 10 overall, three of them won, with a fourth on the way.
The only player in NBA history with at least 34,000 points, at least 9,000 rebounds, at least 9,000 assists.
And there’s a hundred more notable bits and pieces.
The man’s on target to become the NBA’s all-time-leading scorer. Malone’s 36,928 and Kareem’s 38,387 are mere pitstops on LeBron’s way to a waving checkered flag.
And as much as LeBron presumes and acts as though the cameras are always on him as opposed to on anyone else — likely because they are — he actually is a terrific teammate. He plays unselfishly. He really does make those around him better. Ask Anthony Davis about that.
It is true that LeBron, in his current pursuit of another title, needs Davis. Just the way Michael Jordan needed Scottie Pippen. But the benefits go both ways, and most significantly one way, from James out. That’s the way it’s been throughout his 17-year career and it remains so.
Jordan has pretty much been left out of the discussion here because that’s not the point of it. Is LeBron greater than MJ? Will he be by the time he’s done?
Jordan, a better career scorer on average than James, and the collector of more championships with his six titles — he never lost in the Finals, sits atop the heap, at least from this corner. But that doesn’t really matter. To reiterate, that isn’t the point on this occasion.
The point is to appreciate what we are watching out on the floor as it happens, even if it is to the advantage of the Lakers, because … when it is gone, it’s gone for good, retired for good. And then, all anybody will have of LeBron James, the basketball player, is highlight videos and maybe a 10-part docu-series. At 35, James, a well-conditioned human who rarely gets injured, has time left to achieve what he intends on doing — hoisting more Larry O’Brien trophies.
For the rest of us, there’s a seat, either in person or in front of a screen, from which to witness a most extraordinary athlete. Just like when Jack Nicklaus played, when Joe Montana played, when Wayne Gretzky played, yes, when Michael Jordan played, every time they took the tee, the field, the ice, the court, they made history and, just as importantly, they made memories.
Who among us wouldn’t have loved to have seen, as it happened, Babe Ruth take the diamond and make his history?
For those who were so fortunate, the sweet thing they had in the aftermath, the only meaningful thing, no matter who they rooted for, was the memories. No space for real-time pain or bitterness en route. Those memories were all that was left them.
GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” with Jake Scott weekdays from 2-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone.