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LeBron James is the Best Player in the NBA
Most bad guys in sports turn heel because of a rash statement, a drug charge, or picking a fight on the field or the court.
LeBron James didn't do any of the above but he is labeled as the NBA's number one villain instead of his rightful claim as the league's top player.
For readers who haven't been reading my work, this is going to sound strange because I have never been a James fan. I have been known to call him "Queen James" or "Princess Bron Bron" since he's been in the league; not when he decided to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers.
When he made the jump from high school to the 2003 NBA Draft (before the NBA stated a player must be 19 and have waited for one full NBA season before being draft eligible), I thought Carmelo Anthony was a better value with the No. 1 pick.
Anthony was coming off many great performances during the NCAA tournament that led the Syracuse Orange to a National Championship. He had an NBA body, was a polished scorer and looked like a man among boys at the college level - a higher level than James had showcased his skills in.
After James had been in the league for four years, basketball fans were asked to pick LeBron or Kobe Bryant in rap songs during the 2007-08 season. I was nodding my head to the beat as I said 'Kobe' and did the Dikembe Motumbo finger wave when James' name echoed through the speakers.
Again, when James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Carlos Boozer, Amar'e Stoudemire and a host of other talented free agents were testing the market and/or looking for a new city to call home, I didn't want James to come to the local Chicago Bulls.
In my opinion, James had a superstar attitude that would hurt the Bulls' cohesiveness and he came off cocky, yet lacked the resume to hold his nose as high as he did. He knew the basketball world would do whatever he wanted even though he hadn't done anything compared to the NBA legends before him.
He did flip the Cavs' from a bottom feeding franchise to one of the best franchises in not only the Eastern Conference, but in the NBA as well. However, he didn't get the Cavs their first championship as they only went to the NBA Finals once (2007). Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs swept the series.
This sounds like a great list of reasons to not call James the best player in the league.
On the other hand, past experiences, memories and failures shouldn't classify the current state of a player. My eyes have seen the light and can now see the truth, James is the best player in the league today.
Michael Jordan failed in the postseason before he won his six championships with the Bulls. Larry Bird lost two NBA Finals and three Eastern Conference Championship games while winning three championships during his 13 seasons with the Boston Celtics. Still, these guys are considered two of the best players to ever play in the NBA.
Failures make players better.
James might not become the closer and clutch performer many think he should be. Is clutch performer attached to every player in the Hall of Fame or players who carried the league on their backs such as Charles Barkley, Shaquille O'Neal, Clyde Drexler or Julius "Dr. J." Irving? I don't think so.
No one can deny what James does to a stat sheet or to opponents on the court, not even me.
In his nine NBA seasons, James has only averaged under 25 points per game once in his career, his rookie season of 2003-04. Besides scoring, he averages seven assists, seven rebounds, two steals and one block per game for his career.
His past is impressive. The stats alone make him a living legend.
James can shoot three-pointers at a high clip, throw down a monster dunk, block a shot after running the full court to catch up to a fast break, play superior on-ball defense, thread a needle for a precise pass, and break the ankles of other elite defenders in the league.
I can't think of any player in the league who can legitimately say he can do all of these things other than James. Honestly, I don't think there is a player in the league close to James.
Bryant was the former best player in the league, but time has caught up to his body and James has surpassed him. He is still a top five player in the league, just not the top dog anymore.
The Orlando Magic's Dwight Howard is a superior defender and a more efficient scorer around the basket. At the same time, Howard can't dribble or find the open man like James can. Also, James might only shoot 77% from the free throw line, but Howard is a career 59% shooter, including 49% for this season.
James' teammate Wade could be in the discussion but not only does Miami's other starters choose to go to James first, but Wade also chooses to defer to James. He doesn't have to say it, Wade shows that he knows James is the better player.
At first it hurt me to say James was the best player in the game but after watching 20 of the Heat's 34 games this season, it became easier to realize my past judgement was wrong.
Failures don't only make for better basketball players, but for better journalists and basketball fans as well.
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