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LeBron James deserves to be held to a higher standard

LeBron James is a lightning rod. Last week, I mentioned people were being a little too harsh on LeBron. My brother disagreed. Here’s why…

For reference, this is what I wrote about LeBron last week:

If you love double standards and outrageous hypocrites, pay attention to the LeBron James haters. I’ve never been a fan of LeBron’s, nor did I support his exodus to South Beach, but the poor guy is unjustly harassed for EVERYTHING. From a pure basketball standpoint, LeBron is a joy to watch. He gives you all the things you want in a basketball star. He’s electric, athletic, selfless, entertaining. His game has virtually no flaws. He’s a triple double threat night in and night out. Unfortunately, his superior game isn’t enough for the bloodthirsty legions of LeBron haters. The easiest way to describe LeBron’s current state is to compare it to McNabb’s final years in Philadelphia. According to many in Philly, McNabb was a screw up. Even when he won or had an excellent game, fans and the media would point out how he missed this throw or took that sack. When LeBron tried to find a teammate instead of hoisting a contested three over perhaps the NBA’s greatest man-to-man defender, LeBron got ripped to shreds. AND THIS HAPPENED IN THE ALL STAR GAME. When LeBron passes, he should have shot. When he shoots, he should have passed. When he has a great game, it’s irrelevant because it wasn’t a playoff game or Game 7 of the NBA Finals. LeBron is experiencing the McNabb treatment multiplied by a thousand because it’s on a national scale. I don’t even like the guy and I feel bad for him. Regardless of his failures in the playoffs and his struggles late in games, LeBron James is the most talented player in the NBA right now. For once, just shut up and enjoy the show. You can throw your darts come playoff time.”

My brother’s argument:

LeBron James is good. Actually, he’s disgustingly good. Hands down, he’s the best player in the NBA. I watch him because he’s a “triple-double” threat each and every night. He does things no one before him has ever done – dishes like Magic, scores like Jordan, boards like Charles, defends like Pippen. People don’t appreciate what they’re witnessing when they watch him play.

However, LeBron is not in the same boat as McNabb. McNabb was a victim of a city starved for a championship. LeBron is a victim of his own aspirations. McNabb never declared himself bigger than the sport in which he played. He went out every Sunday and put his best effort on the field. Unfortunately, his best effort never brought that elusive championship to Philadelphia. Eventually, people got sick of waiting and McNabb became the scapegoat, though part of the blame was justified.

Conversely, LeBron wants to be bigger than basketball. He wants to be a celebrity who happens to play basketball. “The Decision” was his coming out party. His recent comments about returning to Cleveland continue this notion. He wants to come back as their knight in shining armor and save the day.

I watch LeBron and automatically think of Bill Simmons’ write-up about Shaq (from The Book of Basketball). Shaq could have been the greatest if greatness was what actually drove him. Unfortunately, (and I mean that from a fan’s perspective because Shaq can do whatever he wants), he wanted the fame and celebrity status more than being the most dominant force the NBA had ever seen. Though Shaq showed glimpses of greatness for a few years, it only came in spurts.

LeBron appears to be of the same mold. I thought your point about Derrick Rose was excellent and made this clear. Because LeBron is about celebrity more than basketball, he will forever be held to a higher standard and judged “unfairly.” But is it really unfair? Yes… and no. If you want to be above the game, then you better be ready to be judged above that game.

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