I actually wanted to post a link to this article when it first went up on ESPN–about a week and a half ago–but I didn’t feel like it was particularly relevant. Kentucky was rolling, LeBron was rolling, but there hadn’t been any overlap between the two in quite some time. But things changed Saturday. LeBron’s giving shout outs to Calipari and Wall again, making impromptu appearances courtside at Rupp Arena, throwing his name on shoes designed for Kentucky’s basketball team, as well as being that all-important last letter when it comes time to spell the state’s name with human bodies during timeouts. And Kentucky couldn’t find a better player to associate itself with.
As Bill Simmons writes in his recent piece for ESPN, LeBron James has a force of personality unseen since Jordan, and his size, speed, and talent-combination transcends our current definition of potential.
Simply put, LeBron is an absolute freak of nature. When I talk about him, I always find myself thinking back to the opening scene of the original X-Men movie (very corny, I admit), when Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) is cryptically explaining the origins of mutants like Wolverine and Cyclopse:
“Mutation. It is the key to our evolution. It has enabled us to evolve from a single-celled organism into the dominant species on the planet. This process is slow, normally taking thousands and thousands of years. But every few hundred millenia, evolution leaps forward…”
LeBron is that leap. How else can you explain a 6’8”, 270 lbs. point-forward with a 45-inch vertical leap and the best end-to-end speed in the league? While some people like to compare LeBron to Michael or Magic, I’ve always argued that the best comparison, in terms of impact, is Wilt Chamberlain: LeBron and Wilt are the same sort of leap in evolution Professor X was talking about. Both of them are/were players that were unlike anything the league had ever seen before. Wilt was the first big man who could run and jump like a guard, LeBron is the first power forward who can run, jump, shoot, play defense, handle the ball, and pass like a freakishly athletic point guard.
Simmons echoes these sentiments (minus the X-Men stuff), writing that LeBron is the only player we’ve ever seen that’s ceiling-less in terms of potential. We’ve never seen a guy like him before. How do we know what he’s capable of? And it’s because of this that the stakes will be at an all-time high this summer, when James find out his true net worth as he becomes an unrestricted free agent.
“Know this: The Kobe-LeBron argument is dead. It’s over. LeBron James is the best basketball player alive. Whoever gets him this summer will treat their fans to 50-55 appointment home games for the next five seasons (including playoffs). If you were ever fortunate enough to have season tickets for a memorable athlete in his prime — Gretzky, Montana, Jordan, Magic, Bird, Pedro, Koufax, whomever — then you know exactly what this means. It’s not just about the winning. It’s about heading to the stadium or the park feeling like you won the lottery. It’s about the buzz in the crowd, the way everyone seems like they spent just a little more time getting ready. It’s about the ceiling being removed for the night. It’s about the chance that, 50 years later, your grandkid or your great-grandkid will ask you, “What was it like to see HIM play every night?” … and you’ll have an answer for him. It’s about the familiarity of excellence — constant exposure to someone who’s better at his job than you will ever be at anything — and how that superiority ebbs and flows from night to night.”
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