Lebron James is NOT Michael Jordan. His Finals record is 2-4 (maybe 2-5 soon) and not MJ’s perfect 6-0. He does not have the cutthroat finishing skills that MJ had. His jumper is not as consistent as MJ’s was. And he is living under a microscope constantly being compared to the greatest basketball player of all-time and being picked apart. I am one of those people who watches Lebron play and leaves wanting more. I wish he played hard all the time instead of just when he feels like it. I wish he wouldn’t settle for jumpers when nobody can stop him at the rim. I wish he wasn’t so passive-aggressive with his teammates. I wish he didn’t come across quite so arrogant. I have written lots of articles picking Lebron apart, but today I tip my cap to the man that came up huge in Game 5 to send the series back to Cleveland.
Kyrie stole most of the attention and media spotlight in Game 5 after joining Wilt Chamberlain as the only players in Finals history to score 40+ points on 70%+ shooting from the floor. Still, it was Lebron who was the best player on the floor and won that game for the Cavs, not Kyrie. It’s also Lebron who will do more in Game 6. Lebron was perfect. He got his jumper going, but instead of settling for jump shots, Lebron found a perfect blend of jump shooting and attacking the rim. He set up and found his teammates. He was the game’s leading rebounder. He helped the Cavs stay in the game despite a Klay Thompson barrage. He demoralized the Warriors with powerful dunks. His interior defense against the small-ball Warriors was beautiful and kept the champs out of the paint. Lebron had at least two run-down-from-behind blocks on fast breaks. Lebron has piled up achievements like few others in the game’s history. Today, I look at Lebron and judge him by his own merits. I won’t look him through the MJ scope and point out all of the things I don’t like about his game or his character. I will admire his skill-set, his ability to perform under intense scrutiny, his amazing physical tools, his basketball IQ, and his unselfish play. I admire a man who has avoided public vices and run-ins with the law. I admire a family man who tries to do it the right way.
In Game 5, not only did Lebron show up and dominate the game in a building against an almost unbeatable team, but he did so while deflecting credit. On that night, I saw what Lebron can be. He is not Michael Jordan, but for me and the generation of fans who grew up watching MJ, we need to let it go and stop blaming Lebron for NOT being MJ and just appreciate how good this guy is. If Lebron was puttering along well below his season averages, he would be getting slaughtered in the media and yet Curry somehow is skating by without much discussion despite having 3 subpar games this series. Lebron has taken more ridicule than perhaps any player ever has and when I step back and analyze why I feel the way I do, the answer is that he’s not as good as Michael. Now that I realize that, I can appreciate Lebron for what he is and not for what he is not.