I’m not a LeBron James fan, but I’m a basketball fan, meaning that my first statement will never be completely true. With 4 league MVP awards and 2 NBA championships, he’s proven to be a winner. It’s a likeable human trait, sportsman or not, but especially both.
LeBron is currently sitting on top of the NBA with his feet kicked up, making it terrifying for any non Miami Heat fan to imagine him with a taller ladder. But in Monday’s Media Day Interview, James assured us of just that. “I got better,” he told reporters as he matter-of-factly spoke about his efforts on the offseason. “In every aspect.”
The neckbearded LeBron of course wouldn’t give the details of his improvements, so naturally I sat there for a minute reflecting on last season and thinking of ways in which a statistically superb year could be bettered in 2014.
In terms of skill, performance, and general housekeeping, 4 possibilities stood out:
1. Jumpshot, Range
LeBron’s jumpshot was stellar this past year, ending the regular season with a career high 56 percent from the field and 40.6 percent from three. But just as the LeBron James wood-rider train was making full rounds in route toward another ring, Spurs coach Greg Popovich remained unhyped, forcing the Heat to a 1-2 Finals start by giving LeBron space and luring him to take jumpshots. However, the effort proved finite when in Game 7 LeBron scored 37 points almost entirely from outside the paint and led the Heat to back to back championships.
What if this year LeBron shoots the ball at a higher percentage? Hell, what if he shoots the same percentage, but builds the confidence to take jumpshots for necessity as well as by design? The thought is scarier than this.
2. From B-List to A-List
I remember watching an episode of Inside the NBA this past season and hearing Charles Barkley ask why LeBron doesn’t have as many commercial deals as other NBA players like Blake Griffin and Chris Paul. Well Chuck, other than the fact that it’s probably difficult for LeBron to care about being anyone other than the best basketball player on the planet, the compilation above illustrates clearly that he was in full audition mode on the court, his ivory tower.
I knew there was a game where paper beats rock, but I didn’t know it was the game of basketball. I can imagine LeBron inside a practice gym sometime earlier this summer, setting up dummy men on the court like a football coach does on the field, him dribbling hard into them, jerking his head back, and getting up hysterically with this face:
I mean, this face:
trying to sell the call. If this is one of the things he’s worked on so diligently this summer, it’ll surely lead to more whistles and more freethrows. I suppose, then, it would be wise for James in-between bulking his IMDB to practice some freethrows in these next weeks, because last season’s 78 percent from the line is subpar for the king of South Beach.
It’s pretty much irrefutable that LeBron James is the best player in the NBA at this point. His dominance on the court is unmatched, but we must be clear that dominance is not synonymous with skill. Seemingly everywhere I talk hoop these days there’s some dude who is so media driven that he hastily bush-leagues Kobe Bryant by saying that LeBron is the best player since Jordan, or even worse, that he’s superior to both. The guy is awesome, but I must remind that he has yet to reach a point in his career where he’s had to make fundamental changes to his game like Kobe and Michael did. When he slows down and is no longer able to run through and jump over the competition, it’s diffcult to discern whether or not LeBron will develop the sort of methodical, psychological toolkit that will undo the younger, faster, more athletic players of the inevitable future.
He needs moves. When stuck out on an island, I’ve noticed that LeBron is usually able to get to the rim with a quicker first step and simply blow by his defender. That’s dominance. Integrating a consistent crossover or some combination of witty foot and ball work would be skill, and I’ve yet to see that from him. Over the past two years, LeBron has showed that he’s a threat beyond the well-noted “freight train” aspect, but with running back like speed, if he can start shaking defenders as well as bumping them into the first row, I see a lot more ‘ships flowing through the port of Miami.
If you were using any type of social media outlet during the night of game 6 of the NBA Finals last season, it’s safe to say that you saw at least a few memes and jokes showcasing LeBron James without his coveted headband. The awkwardness made it difficult to focus on the amazing game he was having, almost as if he was running up and down the court with no shorts or something. That’s how integral popular culture has made that headband, using it as a symbol for deriding his apparent hair loss.
But wait a second. What if the whole dramatic episode is all part of a marketing ploy leading up to yet another LeBron James endorsement, this time by none other than Men’s Hair Club?
Show the world the problem, and then when it’s fixed, they’ll all want to know how you fixed it. It’s a genius win-win for both parties. Plus, we all know that LeBron is good friends with Jay Z, the guy with the joint Samsung venture earlier this summer. It would only be wise for LeBron to continue building such an infrastructure, showing balding men all over the world that they’re just a few treatments away from winning an NBA championship.
Look good, play good. Everybody knows that.