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.

(Image: Stylezclothingblog)


  • http://gravatar.com/bpipes81 bpipes81

    It theory it seems you could be a superstar and be “nice”. But trying to find example of such a person is really hard. It seems like that pathological competitiveness carries over to all areas of life rather than simply being channeled to the playing field/court.

    Peyton Manning might be an exception. Same with Albert Pujols. They strike me more as excellent, committed craftsmen than pathological competitors, though.

  • Dustin Lair

    I think it’s really difficult to be a superstar and nice. On one level I absolutely love Jordan and Kobe. On another level, I think they might be sad, sad people. Everybody says winning is everything, those two actually mean it. What made them great basketball players doesn’t contribute to making them great people. In fact, they’re worshiped because they’re winners and their past has been wiped clean.

    As for Lebron, I’m the first to criticize, but have felt sorry for him as well. I actually think he will go down as one of the most talented players of all time. He is so incredibly gifted it’s ridiculous. He does seem to lack the intangible that make people winners. However, if they pull it off this year we’ll forget some of this. If they win another one we’ll forget even more.

  • rickpatrick

    On July 3, 2010, Dirk Nowitzki quietly decided to remain faithful to the Dallas Mavericks and return to help them win a championship.

    On July 8, 2010, LeBron James decided, by mean of a one-hour television special, to abandon Cleveland for Miami in order to help them win a championship.

    Two different styles. LeBron is slam dunks, chest thumps and sneaker sales. But Dirk is clearly outplaying him.

  • PointSpecial

    Derrick Rose has provided a refreshing level of humility with superstardom. I think the weaknesses of those around him really showed themselves in the Conference Finals, but his speech while accepting the MVP… it was just great!

    And he seems to be able to play hard and shut up. His criticisms are self-criticisms, not criticism of teammates or refs/situations… It will be great watching to see what Rose can do but perhaps even better to watch him do it with humility and grace.

  • owenstrachan

    Thanks for the feedback. I agree that there are great players who are not as self-aggrandizing as LeBron. Those players are, to some extent at least, role models.

  • http://polarwanderings.blogspot.com Michael

    I think the difference is the sense of entitlement that LeBron and so many other young people today have. They have talent, but feel that talent alone entitles them to great success. I think the difference with MJ and Kobe is that they never felt they were entitled to win championships, rather they knew that they would do whatever it took to win championships.

  • Ryan Taylor

    Good thoughts, and I agree for the most part with your analysis of LeBron. Yet, I am completely unwilling to rank him as one of the top three players in NBA history. As you point out, a true great player seems to need that killer instinct. He doesn’t have it at this point, and I personally don’t think he ever will. I would take a lot of other players (past and current) before LeBron. I’m not saying they are better athletes, that they look better on the basketball court than LeBron, or that they are more skilled. Yet, players like MJ, Kobe, Magic, Bird, etc. were better because they knew how to win. They all have multiple rings. LeBron is at the half way point in his career and he still has zero. Even if he wins one, he won’t be the Finals MVP. Dwayne Wade would be that for the Heat. In no manner is LeBron one of the best. Until he has multiple championships with him being the focal point (Finals MVP), he is nothing more than an upgraded Scottie Pippen.