Saturday, May 9, 2009
Only One Thing Can Stop LeBron James
If you like boxing even a little bit, go here.
The site belongs to a cat by the name of Shoefly. No less than Bethlehem Shoals himself has called him the FreeDarko originator; Shoefly wrote the orignal FD petition. No surprise, then, that Boxiana reads like FD-meets-boxing. That's what it is. And it's brilliant.
Why do I bring this up? Well, in the final part of his three-part preview of last weekend's Manny Pacquiao-Ricky Hatton fight, Shoefly predicted that Pacquiao would win, because while Hatton was a great fighter, he didn't possess the magic Manny now holds, and it was going to take something greater than him to shoot down the Filipino as fast and relentless as he is flying now. Shoefly focuses on the seemingly inevitable Pacquiao-Mayweather bout. I echo his sentiment in my recap of the fight: If anyone is going to beat Pacquaio, as ferocious and mesmerizing as he is performing at the moment, it is going to have to be Floyd, the only fighter playing on the same historic field.
As I watch LeBron James tear through the Eastern bracket of the NBA playoffs, I think of this scenario. On Saturday, the Cavs defeated the Hawks 97-82 to take a 3-0 lead in their conference semifinal series. James finished with 47 points, 12 rebounds, and 8 assists on 15-25 shooting. For the postseason, he is averaging 33.7 points, 10 rebounds, and 6.6 assists on 55 percent shooting, and his team is 7-0. But more than just the phenomenal production, it's the way it's done that makes you realize you are watching an icon of icons. Every game LeBron makes a couple of highlight-reel worthy dunks, and occasionally he'll hit a three-point shot from near the half-court line, followed by a cool ass pose. He's not only the most dominant player since Michael Jordan, he's the most spectacular, too.
Right now, he's the basketball equivalent of Pacquiao, something so awesome and good that you feel privileged to be able to watch it. The difference is that LeBron isn't even at his peak yet, he's just better at 24 than most great players were in their primes.
And just as Mayweather is about the only thing that could deter Pacquiao right now, there appears to be only one thing that can stop LeBron.
I think you know who I am referring to.
Dwight Howard is a great player, but he's like Hatton: not great enough for this task. No, it will take something more. Enter the 2008-09 Los Angeles Lakers, a team of superior talent to the Cavaliers that is not as impressive to watch. But basketball is about matchups, and the Lakers beat the Cavaliers, handily, both times they faced them this season, including handing them their only legitimate defeat on their home court (the other came in the last game of the season, a one-point loss to the 76ers in which Cleveland rested their starters after already having locked up home-court advantage throughout the playoffs). Sure, LeBron is going to be unstoppable, he is going to put on a show, he didn't play well in those two games but that is irrelevant now as he has ascended once again this spring, a man on a mission, not unlike Ethan Hunt, Omar Little, and Jake Shuttlesworth. He makes his team better like no one ever has.
But L.A. has not yet reached their potential as a team. What if the Lakers are saving their best ball for the Finals, and once they get there they become the team they are capable of being? The team that plays focused and resolute and defends, like they have in their biggest games this year. The squadron that is hungry, the team that crushes you with their strength in numbers, coming at you and at you and at you, in waves, until you are overwhelmed. What if Andrew Bynum gets his timing down, and Kobe, in his prime, starving for a fourth ring, approaching the most important battle of his career (if the Lakers can beat the Cavs, there is hope for his very own mini-dynasty; if they cannot, LeBron rules autocratically for the next six years) that perfect basketball balance that he has shown at times in the past? What if their desire, to avenge last season's failure, surpasses Cleveland's, to avenge theirs of two years ago?
That is what it will take. Nothing less. LeBron James is great, demanding more reverence with each outing, and his presence alone almost guarantees that the Cavaliers will be competitive regardless of the opponent; the Lakers will just have to be better. It is the only way.