By Nicole Ganglani | Photo from Lakers and Inquirer Sports | Art by Tricia Guevara
Let me start this story with a disclaimer: I was never a LeBron James fan, at least not until he became a Los Angeles Laker. As a die-hard Lakers and Kobe Bryant fan, it was almost like I was forced to root for LeBron simply because he became a Laker in 2018. This meant every triple double LeBron earned was something I had to celebrate, especially if he was leading the Lakers to victory.
But while I was in the process of rooting for LeBron to turn the whole Lakers franchise around, I realized that he was more than just a superstar—one of the greatest, if not the greatest, to ever play the game. I know the term “legend” is always casually thrown around (especially in sports), but as a longtime basketball fan, I can say that I’ve never seen a player quite like LeBron. I may be biased since I never really got to witness Michael Jordan’s peak years (yes, I know I missed out) but I have yet to watch, hear, or even read about an athlete that can shatter expectations on and off the court the way LeBron did.
LeBron James tonight
31 Points, 8 Assists, 75 FG%, W against his former team??pic.twitter.com/W4usQvni9o
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) January 14, 2020
LeBron is a true leader who brings out the best in his teammates. He’s a four-time MVP who’s made it to the finals nine times, and won three championships and All-NBA 15 times. The King continues to dominate the statistical leaderboard and his achievements only continue to pile up. On Jan.13, he passed Isaiah Thomas for eighth in all-time assist and is the only active player (as of writing) in the top five of the all-time scoring list with a total of 33,513 points.
Outside the court, he’s a political activist, a philanthropist, and someone who continues to inspire many people around the world. What makes him so great is not just the amount of achievements in his resume or his ability to take over a game, but how he’s shaped and influenced the game of basketball for the past 17 years now.
Let LeBron be LeBron
Despite all that LeBron has achieved, he’s still criticized on a regular basis—which is normal for every generational type of player. But just look at Fox Sports’s reporter Skip Bayless’ Twitter and you’ll get a preview of how much smack LeBron gets everyday. The King has always received flak for his inability to deliver in the clutch and stat padding; some people even call him a traitor. The list goes on.
These criticisms are likely rooted in the fact that what LeBron has done (transfer from one team to another) is something Jordan or even Magic Johnson would never do during their prime. It’s easy to understand why a lot of people compare LeBron with basketball greats like Jordan, Johnson, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Comparisons are unavoidable, sure, but they shouldn’t be used to define a player. LeBron is his own player. Also, nitpicking his every little flaw or dwelling on the differences between him and Jordan will only hinder us from appreciating basketball greatness.
Take it from someone who only learned to appreciate LeBron in the past two years. I grew up rooting for Kobe Bryant, thinking that LeBron was an antagonist protagonist for dethroning Bryant as the best basketball player in the league in 2011. Because of this, I didn’t get to appreciate 15 years of LeBron’s historic career.
Appreciate Basketball Greatness
We’re now witnessing the latter part of LeBron’s career. That said, it seems as if the King can still suit up for a couple more years—but then again the sport of basketball is unpredictable, especially given the fact that no one can defeat father time. The best we can do now as basketball fans is to savor every chapter left in LeBron’s historic career.
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) January 14, 2020
It’s possible that his career is about to take its best turns yet. He’s currently an MVP candidate averaging 25 points, eight rebounds, and 10 assists per game playing alongside Anthony Davis on a championship caliber team. We’re not sure of what’s going to happen in June or even in the next couple of years before he retires, but what we do know is that LeBron’s career is closer to the end than the beginning. And so it’s only right that we start appreciating greatness while we still have it. After all, we don’t know when we’ll ever see a player like LeBron again.
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