Fourth and Long

Published 11:29 am Friday, June 22, 2012

The king finally has his crown.

It seems like yesterday that Lebron James was gracing the cover of Slam and Sports Illustrated as a high schooler.

To say that there was a lot of hype surrounding him would be a massive understatement. Scouts and coaches knew he had game, but the rest of the country couldn’t understand why this kid from Akron, Ohio was driving a Hummer and playing prep basketball on ESPN.

Even after watching him play as a senior I never could have anticipated that he would turn out to be the best basketball player on the planet.

Before you scoff or send me a nasty email please allow me to make two things clear. First is that Lebron was the world’s best basketball player last week, he didn’t become it after winning an NBA title. Secondly I believe that Lebron gets the title of best in the world partially by default. Up until last year Kobe Bryant was the best and no, Lebron is not as good as Kobe was…at least not yet.

When you look at efficiency statistics the argument could be made that “King” James is the best basketball since Wilt Chamberlain. What the statistics don’t show you are the intangibles. Characteristics such as will, passion, leadership and grace under fire don’t get recorded on a stat sheet, but they tend to make the difference between the good players and the great ones.

Michael Jordan had some of those characteristics and eventually possessed all of them. The same can be said for Kobe.

If Lebron’s performance in the NBA Finals is any indication, he is beginning to show those intangibles. His NBA Finals performance, particularly his decisive game five spectacle demonstrated not only his ability to elevate the play of his teammates, but the willingness to take over a game when necessary to win. Lebron has been, at times, too unselfish. How’s that for a change of pace from the average professional athlete.

Lebron, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh each scored 20 plus points, but anyone that watched that game knows that it was the scoring of Mike Miller and Shane Battier that put the Miami Heat over the top. Both are primarily jump shooters and benefited greatly by Lebron’s decision to attack the basket and impose his will in the post.

James was too much for any one opposing player to defend and the Thunder’s need to try and double team him down low created passing lanes and mismatches on the perimeter. Battier and Miller were more than happy to roam beyond the arc and wait for the ball.

When James recognizes that he is physically more gifted than anyone else on the court and plays with aggression he is unstoppable. This selfishness as some would call it actually makes it easier for his teammates to get involved down the stretch.

James is only 28 years old and is just beginning to play his best basketball. For Miami Heat fans this is a wonderful thing. For Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert and the plethora of other Lebron haters out there, get used to the King and his crown. It may be the first of many.


David Friedman is a long-time contributor to Roanoke-Chowan Publications. A Bertie High School graduate, he and his wife currently reside in Wilmington. David can be reached via e-mail at