The NBA is, more than any other pro sports league, a player driven league. Specifically a superstar driven league. Greatness is expected from these superstars on the biggest stage. It is the reason the San Antonio Spurs slide under the radar until their annual deep playoff run. The casual fan won’t appreciate what the Spurs represent as a franchise, which is consistency. The casual fan wants to see LeBron James or Kevin Durant drop 50 on a helpless opponent like an unstoppable freight train. They don’t want to see pristine ball movement and fundamentally sound basketball. They want to see Chris Paul toss up lobs to Blake Griffin because it’s more exciting than watching Tim Duncan execute a textbook post move that ends in the same result, two points added to the scoreboard.
There was a time when I would say LeBron went to Miami to be second option to Dwyane Wade. The first year following “The Decision” it looked like that was the case, but looking back it couldn’t have been shorter sighted. Fast-forward to 2014, and LeBron is redefining the sport while D-Wade looks like he is a few years away from transitioning to becoming a bench player.
Watching LeBron James on the court is similar to competing in the level of Super Smash Bros. where you need to fight off 10 of the same character at once, but they fly off the screen at first touch. It looks to easy for him, and he can only be stopped when he decides to pull up from mid-range or worse, from three. Not to say he isn’t solid from these areas, but his efficiency is his strength more than anything. The most important trend in James’s career has been his shot selection. As he matured, he grew into his body and brought his game closer to the basket.
Percentage of James’s shots taken from 10 feet or further, including 3 pointers:
54.4% in 2010-11, 53.4% in 2011-12, 49.5% in 2012-2013, and 47.8% in 2013-14.
That is just one of many different statistics that can be used to display LeBron’s maturity, his growth, and his efficiency. LeBron bends defense’s so much that Chris Bosh has become a spot up three-point shooter. When LeBron is shooting 11 for 12 from within 3 feet of the basket like he did in his 49-point game four performances of the Brooklyn Nets series, the Heat can afford to let Bosh wander around the three-point line. Truthfully, LeBron plays the role of every position at some point during a game. He is a distributor, a rim protector, a perimeter defender, a paint presence, and spot up shooter. There isn’t a spot on the court where he is ineffective.
I never thought I would see the day, but it has come. I have grown tired of hating LeBron. My hate has blossomed into full-blown appreciation. A few years back I hated him for the same reasons I hated Peyton Manning. They had all the talent in the world, but could never pull their team to the next level. In both case’s I thought it was ridiculous to compare them to the legends of their respective sports, but for LeBron that is no longer the case.