With Four remaining teams left in NBA playoffs, my support is going to the underdog Cavaliers, who cut the Pistons’ series lead in half yesterday with a 88-82 victory. If the Cavs rally past the Pistons, and the Jazz somehow manage to steal the series from the Spurs, LeBron could conceivably capture his first ring, maybe. Crazier things have happened in sports lately right? And what could be better for the NBA after a relatively miserable season than the young King James getting his first ring and making the more reluctant older fans want to watch the NBA again. It would create a need to see if this guy holds a candle to the stars of the golden age of the NBA, which I was unfortunate to barely catch the tail end of. And seeing as Stern has no problem rigging various aspects of the NBA, mainly the lottery to screw the Celtics, the Cavs taking this thing down should seem more likely than it does.
But to get back on topic, it was in last night’s game that phenom LeBron James took his first step towards maturing into one of the best players in the game. He was out of his mind down the stretch. What makes it more amazing is that he made the Namath-esque prediction that it would be the biggest game of his life. I just can’t wait for 25 years from now when LeBron is being interviewed at a Cavs game, absolutely wasted, hitting on Cheryl Miller. You just have to love this guy though, the prediction, nailing a 92 footer in pre-game warm ups, hitting step-back, fade-away 3’s down the stretch in a must-win game 3, and finally, his clutch jumper to seal the deal.
I’m sure he will spark whispers about another basketball player who wore the number 23, but I want to say right here that I don’t think he is the next Jordan. He is a hand and a finger’s worth of rings, and about 99 monumentally clutch playoff performances away. That isn’t meant to take anything away from LeBron. In this era I don’t think any team can recreate the dynasty the Bulls had. Also, take a look at Jordan’s supporting cast. Pippen, Rodman, Kerr, incredible all-around player, rebound machine, and dirty 3 point shooter respectively. Guys like Luc Longley, Toni Kukoc, and Bill Wennington were all great role players. Jordan was an incredible leader, crunch time player, and overall one of, if not the most unstoppable offensive players ever to play the game. But he did have a lot of help. It’s not that hard for a professional driver to look good flooring it in a high performance well-oiled machine. LeBron could grow to become as good of a leader as Jordan, but with his supporting cast his best analogy would be Jeff Gordon driving a 1971 4-cylander Ford Pinto, there’s only so much he can do with it. In the current state of the NBA, imagine Bron Bron with a supporting cast similar to MJ’s. There is no one quite like pippen, but call Josh Howard LeBron’s Pippen. Jason Kapono is his shooter waiting on the elbow, a big upgrade from bricklayer Donyell Marshall. Give him some big men who, unlike Zydrunas Ilgauskus, my mom couldn’t box out and out rebound. She played her college ball at St.Michael’s in Vermont thank you very much. Think how scary that team would be. My point is the Cavs need to get this guy better help for him to get some rings. And don’t even get me started on Eric Snow and Larry Hughes.
So instead of drawing Jordan comparisons, take this clutch performance for what it is. I mean he was out of his Gord last night. Let’s all cheer for James to get his first ring with a less than ideal supporting cast and join Wade as the second of the next generation of superstars to win a championship. And if he does that, then maybe we can start calling him the air apparent. Maybe we can start to put the Silhouette of LeBron throwing it down over Rasheed Wallace on jump suits. Crazier things have happened in sports, right?