Tuesday, January 12, 2010

In case you didnt see the Hoops Hype article about LeBron James

This article is dumb to me, lol, but "Ben" from The Blazers Edge felt like he wanted to write this the other day. I check Hoops Hype daily, its one of my favorite websites. When I came across this, I laughed, hysterically. Read it for yourself.

Sunday night in Portland the home crowd was treated to the annual LeBronathon. The man of the hour did not disappoint, dumping in 41 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists in a 106-94 Cavaliers defeat of the Blazers.

LeBron James, at this point in his career and life, renders the exercise of a traditional game recap pointless. To co-opt an old Nike slogan, his better is absolutely, positvely better than your better. The most perfect physical specimen to ever play the game of basketball, a focused and motivated James is without peer.

He utterly dominated the first quarter of this game, continued to dominated the second quarter, got a little bit bored in the third quarter and then dropped the hammer in the fourth quarter. While the Blazers valiantly fought back from a 17 point second half deficit to briefly tie the game, James's shadow hung over that run. These Blazers were simply not beating James.

That James is capable of producing the statistics he does while drifting for minutes at a time feels like a mirage. Whereas watching Michael Jordan in person was like a great opera -- art -- James is more like a magic show. His speed makes himself and his opponents disappear when you blink; his power threatens like an oversized sword sawing a woman in half; his courtsense is the trick where he knows which card you're holding before you even look at it; his aura all swagger, all showman, every step choreographed and precise.

James is the single must-see attraction in the NBA. Indeed, he's can't-miss, thanks to the insane number of cameras set up to capture his every move. But as high as the collective anticipation is for James every year he delivers beyond expectations time and again. Tonight, he was bigger, faster, and stronger than every before. And I write those words every time he comes here.

His first quarter was just silly: 8 for 8 from the field for 20 points. If there was a singular skill that stood out during those 12 minutes it was his ability to finish at the rim. James redefines what "finishing at the rim" means. For James, the window of opportunity to gracefully drop in a layup or dunk seems three or four times longer than the average All Star's. He rises higher, more powerfully and with more control, effortlessly flanking the rim from side to side as he waits for the most opportune moment to release the ball. Defenders go up and come down and James hovers or motors sideways or rises higher, before he inevitably finishes without a care in the world and with either hand.

To watch James on the fast break is even more preposterous. He sees planes that no one else does, as if he is the only person wearing 3 D goggles and the only person moving in fast forward.

And yet James the player could not have been more different than James the person I saw tonight . Where everything between tip and horn is so natural, everything else is so forced, so scripted. James is now approaching nearly 10 years of superstardom yet his interactions with the media trail far behind the likes of Kobe Bryant (or Brandon Roy) when it comes to comfort, depth and feel.

After the game, James made an off-color comment to a team attendant, stuttered through basic questions searching for words that he apparently doesn't have in his arsenal, addressed the media horde wearing only a towel (compared to Bryant who wore a full suit and tie to take questions on Friday night) and resorted to cliches that seemed to bore even himself.

Why? Is he simply tired of the same routine? Does he have nothing to gain from it? Is he convinced that he understands the game in ways the average writer can't? Is he simply unable to convey thoughts that matter? I don't know.

Nearly two hours before the game I caught a glimpse of a more genuine James, and it wasn't pretty. James wore headphones as he warmed up, locked in a cocoon of his own creation, heaving shot after shot. At the time, the Rose Garden was mostly empty and courtside security was not yet in place. Four teenage boys -- mostly decked in Blazers gear-- gawked as James went through his paces, ESPN cameras tracking his every move. As he worked towards the right corner, his admirers were within reach of a man whom they probably consider a superhero.

James mechanically drained his three pointers and then paused briefly as a ballboy went to retrieve a rare miss. Sensing an opportunity, one of the group reached out to James and patted him on the butt, not unlike teammates do countless times during every NBA game. Perhaps with a little more cupping action than usual but, nevertheless, an innocent gesture. The move bordered on the bizarre because it was clear the two had no prior relationship.

James wheeled, removing both his headphones instantly, clearly flummoxed that a stranger had grasped his buttocks. Upon seeing the culprit, who eyed the player with what can only be described as awe, James looked incredulous and indignant. With no other recourse available, James stopped his shooting routine, striding defiantly towards a group of his teammates that were standing near half court. A string of profanities flew from his mouth as he relayed what had just happened to his teammates, who hadn't seen it. To a man, they were equally shocked to hear of the occurrence. James continued his chest-puffing diatribe, occasionally looking back at the group of teenagers. The young men were pretending to gaze out in a different direction, pretending to be invisible. While James's teammates assured him that the kid surely didn't mean any harm and that he was probably just wishing the player well, James continued to shake his head, failing to comprehend that someone he didn't know, someone outside his circle, someone so clearly unimportant, would have the gall to touch him. Him.

Eventually, the kids slunk away. James finally popped his headphones back in and continued his warm-up routine. He either didn't notice -- or pretended not to notice -- two young writers laughing hysterically nearby.

Such is life for LeBron James in 2010.

Untouchable on the court, in more ways than one.