The headline does not suggest that LeBron James should be traded to Washington. Far from it. He’s fit in nicely in his current role with the Miami Heat. Rather, the question is an onomastic one, the study of names themselves.
“The King” connotes something majestic, something regal, kind of like…I dunno… “His Airness.” “The Wizard” suggests a person who can make something out of nothing, turn chaos into beauty, a name that conjures thoughts of… “Magic.” I’ll explain later, but first to the moronic drivel that inspires me today.
CBS Sports columnist Gregg Doyel (I’m not linking here because you’ve probably already seen it, plus Doyel’s a goof and doesn’t deserve the hits) decided to drop the hammer on LeBron for “shrinking” in these NBA Finals, particularly in Game 3. LeBron’s offending stat line? 17 points, nine assists.
Doyel made fun of LeBron’s admirably direct answer to his (I’ll admit) admirably direct question, the one where LeBron (correctly, it would seem) called out Doyel for ignoring the game and simply staring at stats. LeBron’s defense on Jason Terry has reduced the Dallas Mavericks to a one-man team, albeit a team with one man who can nearly win games himself. That apparently means nothing to Doyel.
(Does anyone else remember when “Doyyyyyyy” was interchangeable with “Duhhhhhh”? In this case, it still should be.)
That defense apparently means something to Dirk Nowitzki (the aforementioned one man), who’s begging his coach and teammates to get Terry open so he can get some help. But, Doyyyyyy-el obviously knows what’s happening here better than the guy that’s on the court.
LeBron’s ninth assist was a bullet to a wide-open Chris Bosh, who stuck what turned out to be the winning basket. It’s the kind of play that’s made by a man who’s looking to make good players (Bosh) great and great players (Finals MVP-in-waiting Dwyane Wade) legends. Players like… Magic Johnson.
Doyyyyyy-el, like most other fans who only casually observe the game, wanted LeBron to be the new Jordan. Stay his whole career (at least until he was too old to dominate) with one team and win titles that way. Oh, and score 30 points per game to the exclusion of all else every night. He’s left the team that drafted him while still in his prime, and now he dares to focus on setting up others and shutting down opponents’ gunners in the NBA Finals. The nerve of some people, eh?
The way he’s conducted his career doesn’t resemble the way Magic Johnson conducted his, either, but his game, build, and skills have resembled Magic since day one. That’s the Hall of Famer I’ve wanted LeBron to model himself after since the beginning. His size, speed, and ballhandling abilities make him an absolutely unstoppable playmaker and facilitator when he’s got someone to set up.
The worst games the Miami Heat have had this season have been when Wade and James play tug-of-war with control of the ship. Game 2 of these Finals was a night where Dwyane Wade couldn’t miss, but who started heaving up ill-advised shots late in the game? Yes, LeBron. He tried to be Jordan and didn’t quite measure up.
If Erik Spoelstra broke him of that and let him know that his passing and defense would be more helpful than trying to score 30, Spo may deserve more credit than I, or anyone else, has been willing to give him since nWo South Beach tried to burn the arena down with July’s glorified pep rally.
Doyyyyyy-el denigrates the importance of people who can play defense, saying, “James played the defensive-stopper card. That's why he's out there, you know. For his defense. He's not a latter-day Michael Jordan. He's a latter-day Dudley Bradley.” Uh, yeah, because Dudley Bradley went for 17 and nine in the Finals exactly… oh, wait, he never played in the Finals. Barely played in the regular season, for that matter.
If 17 points and nine assists in the Finals are the numbers of a “shrinking” superstar, then what to make of Magic? He went for 17 or fewer points with nine or more assists 18 times in his Finals career.
Mr. Doyyyyyy-el, care to try and make a case that Magic Johnson and his five rings wilted in the Finals? Shrank from the spotlight? Disappeared in the clutch? Go ahead and try it. Let’s see what happens then.
Last May, I wrote that if LeBron wanted to win a championship, he HAD to go to South Beach and play in Dwyane Wade’s house. He did, and now look where he finds himself: two wins from that elusive championship.
I’m far from a LeBron apologist, in case you’re wondering. The Decision frosted my cookies just as much as anyone else’s, because it was a complete puss-out on LeBron’s part not to shoot straight with the Cavs. Still, this turn of events isn’t the end of civilization as we know it, and those who think it is kind of need to get over themselves.
The Heat’s early-season struggles and their few stumbles in the playoffs have been when these two alpha dogs both wanted to pull the sled themselves. When LeBron remembers that he has an uncanny ability to elevate others, the sledding seems to be so much smoother. If the Mo-Heat-os keep playing the way they are right now, LeBron could, and should, have himself a “magical” moment on which a legacy can be built.
Call him "Merlin" James.