Tuesday, June 21, 2016

LeBron Derangement Syndrome - Why So Angry About 3rd Title & 3rd Finals MVP?

In the movie "Bad Teacher" Jason Segel plays a gym teacher arguing with a grade school student over the Jordan/LeBron debate.  The kid says "LeBron is a better passer AND a better rebounder."  Segel responds that Jordan won 6 titles.  The kid replies, "Is that the only argument you got?"  Segel, "It is the only argument I NEED!"

In "We're The Millers" a 10 pound bundle of marijuana falls on Jennifer Aniston's lap in plain sight of another couple, and she and Jason Sudekis claim that it is a baby named LeBron.  Sudekis, "We wanted to name him after a prima donna who will never be as good as Jordan."

LeBron's team just won a Finals in which he led both teams in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks.  That has never occurred.  According to ESPN, that has never occurred in any playoff series ever, at any time.  They used to play 2 out of 3 series in the late 70s early 80s.  Magic and Moses and Bird never did it for a two game stretch?  Apparently not.  If you search for Finals Games since 1984 (when the basketball-reference.com database goes back to) in which a player registered 25 points, 9 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks in a game, you get Dennis Johnson 1985, Michael Jordan twice, and LeBron James three times.........three times this year!  In this series, LeBron had the #1 and #3 Finals "Game Score" of any Finals game played since 1984.  LeBron, therefore, just had two of the three greatest Finals games played in 33 years.

Against this background, the Skip Baylesses of the world replied after these historic results -- "Kyrie should have been the MVP."  The Ric Buchers of the world, "LeBron quit on his team in Game 4."   These comments make the speaker look so ignorant and borderline insane that you have to wonder what causes the LeBron Derangement Syndrome.  I mean, I don't care for Kobe, but this would be similar to me watching Kobe score 81 points and the very next day saying "Carmelo Anthony is better."  (Skip Bayless, by the way, has actually stated that Carmelo and Johnny Manziel are better at their sports than is LeBron).

I mean, LeBron is NOT a guy who tanked a playoff game intentionally because he had been criticized for shooting too much the last game (Kobe) or who has been accused of raping a hotel employee, or who regularly showed up for the regular season 20-40 pounds overweight (Shaq - to whom Kobe allegedly compared his own Colorado problems, saying Shaq was just as bad) or who intentionally tried to humiliate his teammates every day in practice (Jordan) or who lost millions gambling and decided to retire suspiciously, or a guy who engaged in an amount of unprotected sex with so many partners while married that he got an incurable disease (Magic).  LeBron has not, to my knowledge, ever abandoned his daughter and refused to talk to her or to pay $40/week in child support for her (Bird). 

Undoubtedly James has many skeletons in his closet of which I am unaware (almost every athlete cheats on his wife, it is almost a given, so I assume that there is that to start), but certainly the players we hear LeBron compared to are not exactly saints who are preferred to LeBron due to their sparkling reputations and perfect lifestyles.  Certainly "The Decision" (which raised money for charity) was poorly done, but has it not been completely redeemed?  The people hurt the most by The Decision are now more than happy with LeBron.

And the reasons given for hating LeBron generally range from ridiculous ("I don't like his tweets over Kevin Love") to self-contradictory ("he went to Miami to win/and he doesn't care enough about winning").  I heard one yesterday from a radio caller who said that LeBron's numbers should be "discounted" because "he has the ball in his hands so much" and he doesn't "do much off the ball."  So, James is lazy, unassertive, lacks a desire to win, but at the same time puts up otherworldly numbers because he is only playing for himself....but not to win......plus he passes too much to others and should shoot more, except he should also play off the ball more. 

The evaluation of LeBron James on a regular season basis and a playoffs pre-Finals basis is that he is a top 2 player.  LeBron is #1 all-time in Value Over Replacement Player (VORP), both in the playoffs and the regular season.  LeBron is #1 by a substantial margin over Jordan for career playoff Win Shares.  LeBron is the most versatile player of all-time and it is not remotely close.   He is now 10X first-team all-NBA, so the whole argument that it is "too soon" to evaluate his career makes no sense - he has more first-team all-NBA's than only two guys, and he has played more career minutes than Bird or Magic.

So, why the irrational hate of LeBron James now, after his 3rd title and third Finals MVP (ignoring Russell who played when there was no Finals MVP, only Shaq, Magic, Duncan and Jordan also have 3+ titles and 3+ Finals MVPs)?  As I discussed with my friend Scott (shout out to Scott), the reason probably lies way back at the top of this item -- the only argument that these haters have enjoyed against LeBron over the years is this vague belief that he is a loser and if he were so great then why doesn't he win the title and Finals MVP every single year?   Well, now he has won as many titles as Bird, and he has more Finals MVPs and two more conference titles.  He has as many Finals MVPs as Magic and Duncan and Shaq.  He is the only guy to win Finals MVP by defeating Duncan, and he has also won a Finals MVP defeating Curry and the 73-win Warriors.  That really sticks in the craw of the people who worship Jordan and Magic and Bird and Kobe and believe that there is something inherently bad about casting LeBron in the same light. 

And LeBron's name will always now be mentioned in discussing the NBA Finals -- team overcame a 3-1 deficit to win; only player to lead both teams in all positive stats.   That is just galling for haters.  Not only did James win, he did so in a manner that was unique.  You cannot say, "well Jordan also came back from 3-1...." or "Magic also led the Finals in all 5 stats."  It did not occur.  So you are left with arguments like "He could have had he wanted to!" which is like me saying that if I were single I COULD go find the hottest professional cheerleader in town and have sex with her.  So long as I never am in a position to do that, I don't need to worry about proving or disproving it.  Does not trying or having the opportunity make me better than the guy who actually accomplished the feat?  One would say ----------- no.

Anyway - when I make up my next "36 greatest players" list, I may have to consider moving LeBron up from #4.  He has certainly earned consideration.  And with the Mount Rushmore conversations?  Hard for anyone seriously to argue LeBron is not top 4.  There just is not a lot of meat left on those bones except "I personally dislike the guy."

And to Skip Bayless and Ric Bucher, as Nelson Muntz would say -- "Ha! Ha!"

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