It took an extra ignorant Charles Barkley criticizing Lebron James to wake me from my writing slumber, but I had so much to say I was moved to write this article. Charles Barkley stepped into a bear trap when he recently made comments about the long standing face of the NBA Lebron James. Not since Tiger Woods pre scandal have we seen or believed we were seeing a pristine athlete worthy of admiration and role model status. Lebron James is projected to shatter the billion dollar earnings mark and he will no doubt continue to grow long after his exit from the game. Charles Barkley has no understanding of the influence that Lebron James has on today's youth. Lebron James has invested in the youth in ways that other athletes never could or in all honesty would. Just ask the hundreds if not thousands that Lebron has promised to help with college education. What a tremendous and thoughtful gift. We aren't all 6'8 and 265 lbs but we all have dreams. Charles Barkley is from another era and he is lucky to have maintained relevance. I am a 35 year old male from Chicago Illinois who saw Barkley play and I have seen him talk. His play was incredible. His tenacity unrivaled. His commentary is lacking the spark that his game expressed. In this article I will dismantle Barkley's comments on Lebron James public statements regarding the necessity for the Cavaliers to stay improving.
The backdrop of this conversation is set thousands of miles away in California. It is clear the Golden State Warriors acquisition of Kevin Durant has sent ripples through the league. The average sports analyst has the NBA season already wrapped up and it's February. Stephen A. Smith sounds like he is about to have a cardiac event every time he talks about the waste of an NBA season. Meanwhile, Lebron James looks around and he sees Kyrie Irving, and..... Kevin Love I guess... I hear the crickets too. Charles Barkley knows this also, but somehow he doesn't equate this to the Cavs needing a quality backup point guard or another scoring option. He lectures James for speaking up about his frustrations. The comment that Barkley made about Lebron not wanting to compete is absolutely ridiculous. Durant, Curry, Thompson, Green, and Igoudala say that Lebron is a long way from competing. As a fan I could only wish for a player like James who demands excellence and success at any cost. Willing to take the social media backlash to improve his roster. Barkley can't fathom a player making demands to an owner. In James situation he put Cleveland on his back and generated billions for that city. He came back after his jerseys where burned in the street. He won that city the only championship it has seen in over 50 years. How much were the Cavaliers worth before James was drafted? How about now? The answer is 222 million in 2003 and 1.1 Billion in 2016. Charles Barkley is not taking this into account. If Lebron walks tomorrow the Cavs fall back into the ashes of mediocrity with the likes of the Nets and Kings.
Hypocritical much Charles? I thought you went from the 76ers to the Rockets and then to play with Hakeem the Dream in Houston? Oh that wasn't you? Maybe that was Robert Horry? No, Horry was the Lakers, Rockets, and Spurs. Oh, and he actually won rings. I need to get this off my chest for all the vets who try to criminalize young stars for changing teams or joining forces. The current NBA rules allow players to choose where they want to play once they have fulfilled the obligations of their previous contract. The NBA incentivizes players to stay by allowing the current team to offer the largest contract for the longest amount of years. However, if a player chooses to take less to win we act like that's a negative. If an owner wins with less we think highly of him. Sorry Barkley, Jordan, and any bitter players from different eras. The rules dictate player options and not vice versa. I can almost promise that if Michael Jordan could tell Jerry Krause where to shove it and leave for a few million less to play with a better team he would leave in a heartbeat. The reality is that Jordan barely made a few million per year for a long time. It wasn't until his last few years with the Bulls that he got paid appropriately. If the current rules applied during their era I am sure we would be hearing Barkley sing a different tune.
In the end we can't escape the fact that Barkley makes a living from making these kinds of statements and it probably won't stop anytime soon. However, the next generation is watching and listening. They might not be as kind to forgiving if he continues to burn bridges with the current stars of today. He is also burning bridges with players from his own generation. His public dispute with longtime pal Michael Jordan is well documented. The lesson that I think Charles Barkley needs to learn is that times change and we need to adapt. Charles better adapt quick or be phased out.
Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers made history when they overcame a 3-1 deficit to defeat the Golden State Warriors and capture the first championship Cleveland has seen in over 50 years. James led all players in points, rebounds, blocks, and assists. He helped this team defeat the record breaking 73-9 Warriors that dominated this NBA season. It was a foregone conclusion that the Warriors would win back to back championships. Nobody gave the Cavs a chance in this series. No other player has lead in all stats across the board in the Finals. No other player has been the NBA finals MVP on the team that was in his own state. This was an amazing display of greatness from the man we know as King James.
As a fan of the NBA for over 25 years I have seen Kobe, Shaq, Jordan, Iverson, Magic, Bird, Wilkins, Wade, Malone, and many more come and go. All of these players were great in their own right. Shaq was unstoppable in the paint. Bird was something to behold with his shooting and tenacity. Iverson was the warrior among trees who never stopped coming. Magic was Magic. Jordan was the most fierce assassin the game has ever seen. He will probably never be surpassed in that regard. However, 13 years ago I saw a young man named Lebron James enter the NBA and from the moment I saw him play I knew he was special. He crashed the boards, played defense, passed like Magic, and drove like Malone. He was a rookie. In front of my eyes I watched him grow and develop into a man with the burden of following in the shoes of Michael Jordan. Year after year he went further and yet he fell short of the expectations. The name King James was like an anvil on his shoulders keeping him buried beneath the legends he was chasing.
Lebron James made The Decision and left Cleveland to get rings with Wade and Bosh in Miami. The big three was formed and James got the rings he was seeking. He was a champion. Finally he could say he had earned his place among the greats. Then came the ghosts of greatness past. He needed Wade. He quit on Cleveland. He is not Jordan. Magic never left. Bird was a Celtic for life. How could back to back championships lead to this? Then he got dismantled by the Spurs in his final year with Miami. Wade's knees looked shot and Bosh was a non factor. Free agency arrived and everyone was ready to pounce on James if he jumped to another contender. Then he did something that shocked NBA fans everywhere. He went home to finish what he started in Cleveland.
How could he return to the city that burned his Jersey? How could he play for Dan Gilbert who said those despicable things about him and cursed his name? The answer is simple. He needed to complete the only challenge left in his career. Win a ring for his hometown and silence the players and fans who refused to acknowledge his greatness. He needed to earn his crown. After a lackluster performance in game 4 of these finals I started to get that sinking feeling again. They were right about him I thought. He really doesn't have what it takes. I felt so stupid for defending him all these years. I got texts and phone calls from people I haven't spoke to in years. I knew what they wanted. I didn't answer.
Then game 5 arrived and James returned and Irving exploded. It was incredible and frustrating to watch this performance. Where have you been I thought? Why wait this long? Then game 6 happened and it started to look like we would get every ounce of the Lebron James we wanted to see. I was so scared to write what I was seeing because I wasn't sure he wouldn't let me down. I wasn't going to do that to myself. I held my breathe and hoped that win or lose he would go down like Ali. I watched the game and I was so proud of myself for sticking by him for all these years. He did it! I couldn't believe it.
The most impressive thing about Lebron James is that he did it his way. He never stopped passing, rebounding, and blocking shots. He never forgot about his team. He never went Kobe and looked great at the expense of his teammates. This is his true legacy that will carry on. He was a great player, a great teammate, and a great role model for anyone who aspires to play the game of basketball. As the tears rolled down his face while he held the trophy he was finally crowned. He finally deserved the name King. He knew they could never deny him. Not Barkley, Jordan, Pippen, Russell, or any other legend from any era. He could sit on his throne and he rightfully belonged there. Lebron James was finally the King of the NBA and this cannot be disputed. Long live the King and the way he played this game will always be his legacy.
Game 4 of the NBA Finals is hours away. The Cleveland Cavaliers are coming off a dominating performance against the Golden State Warriors. During the Finals we tend to analyze every subtle change. The Cavaliers got blown out in game 2 and lost Kevin Love due to concussion. The series is over and we can all stop watching. Mike and Mike, First Take, His and Hers, and every channel I turned to was the same perspective. Richard Jefferson was tabbed to replace Love in game 3. A savvy veteran in his own right, but far from his prime and not one of the big three.
From tip off you could see and feel the difference. Lebron was confident, Kyrie was magical, and the Cavs team defense was like a swarm of bees tracking the ball all over the court. The Cavs dominated from start to finish. The ball movement was beautiful and the chemistry was undeniable. Before the game was in the 4th quarter the analysts started dissecting the game and looking for what had changed. It wasn't long before Love became the scapegoat for all the troubles that ailed this team for two games. Could this be true? Could Love be the reason behind the 2-0 deficit leading into game 3? I think not.
Game 3 was about heart. James was going to the paint, Irving dropped 16 points in the 1st quarter, Thompson and James crashed the boards, and perimeter defense was sensational. The play in the 3rd quarter where James dives for the ball and saves it then gets up for a reach back dunk said it all. Cleveland was up by 18 and still playing like they were down by 18. That's heart and that's what has been missing from this team. If Kevin Love was playing they might have won by 40 points instead of 30.
As a fan of Lebron James and Steph Curry I really can't lose in this series. I was losing my mind in the first 2 games because the Cavs looked defeated and seemed to be ok with that. Could it be that they don't think they can win? I couldn't understand what was happening. I told my friend Jordan who is from Cleveland and a die hard fan. These guys are quitting. If the Warriors are really that good then that's what it is, but you have to go down swinging. Give it all you got and leave it on the court. After so many Finals and coming up short surely James knew this. Then game 3 happened.
One game doesn't define a series. One play doesn't define a game. One thing does determine how fans and teammates will always remember you. Heart is the definition of what someone is willing to give to accomplish something that is special. This means so much to Cleveland and fans like Jordan. They have waited their entire life for this chance at immortality. With the series slipping away and with it the hearts of Cleveland fans everywhere. These Cavs came out and gave them the effort that was deserved. They might have been without Love, but they surely had HEART!