LeBron James is a paradox. Hence, LeBronadox.
Bill Simmons had some interesting things to say about the uber-talented Miami Heat forward. Sometimes Simmons’s material gets salty, so read him with discretion.
This section outlines the Grantland.com’s founder’s thoughts:
Here’s my opinion in four parts:
- a. I think he’s one of the greatest athletes who ever lived. I will never forget watching him in person with a full head of steam, blowing through opponents like a Pop Warner running back who’s 30 pounds heavier and three seconds faster than everyone else. I am glad he passed through my life. I will tell my grandkids that I saw him play.
- b. From game to game, I think the ceiling for his performance surpasses any other basketball player ever except for Wilt and Jordan.
- c. As a basketball junkie, I will never totally forgive him for spending his first eight years in the NBA without ever learning a single post-up move. That weapon would make him immortal. He doesn’t care. It’s maddening.
- d. In pressure moments, he comes and goes … and when it goes, it’s gone. He starts throwing hot-potato passes, stops driving to the basket, shies away from open 3s, stands in the corner, hides as much as someone that gifted can hide on a basketball court. It started happening in Game 3, then fully manifested itself in Game 4’s stunning collapse, when he wouldn’t even consider beating DeShawn Stevenson off the dribble. Afterward, one of my closest basketball friends — someone who has been defending LeBron’s ceiling for years — finally threw up his hands and gave up. “It’s over,” he said. “Jordan never would have done THAT.”
I agree with Simmons. LeBron is a fantastic athlete. He doesn’t seem, though, to have the killer instinct that Jordan and Kobe Bryant had. He’s definitely one of the top three athletes to play the game and one of the fifty best players. But the next Jordan? I don’t see it.
LeBron is a fantastic wingman. He’s the best player in the NBA in the open court. He is a fearsome defender. But on offense, he somewhat regularly looks out of sorts. I find myself feeling sorry for him at times, which shocks me. I always root for the underdog, and LeBron is anything but. His “Decision” was appalling and I still feel for the city of Cleveland. He clearly has a major ego, and he needs the same Christocentric grace that every sinner must have. Yet he’s just a man, and the pressure on him seems immense. He doesn’t wear the mantle like the aforementioned players. HIs life at present seems something like a parable, a tale of having everything and being crushed by the weight of it all.
At base, LeBron seems like something of a nice guy, a fun guy, who loves playing ball with friends. He seems to like “community,” to use a modern buzz-word. Kobe does/did not. Kobe only gunned for himself. Kobe would rather hurt you than lose. Jordan was pathological in his desire not to lose. I’m not sure LeBron is like that. He seems nicer than many stars. This isn’t to say that he doesn’t have a massive ego. He seems to. It’s also not to say that he has exemplary character. It is to say, though, that he seems different than other mega-stars, different in a way that may suggest a nicer personality but a weaker will.
My friend Doug Hankins and I once discussed this, and he said that he thought that a star had to have a truly killer instinct to be a superstar. I didn’t initially agree with him, but I think he may be right. To be a superstar requires a level of self-confidence and predatory competitiveness that may not jibe with, for example, Christlike character, or even just upstanding character. I still turn this idea over in my head at times. It’s worth pondering, for sure. Can you be a superstar and be, well, nice?
I’m not sure LeBron has that all figured out. That makes him a paradox. Better yet, a LeBronadox.