In sports, “greatness” is the science class frog of attributes. Dissected, explored, discussed, it is taken apart and shown to the world by some as proof that they know every bit of what makes someone great. And the vast majority of the time, they refuse to bestow the title of “great” on anybody but the rare few. Babe Ruth, Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky (who even earned the nickname “The Great One”), Jim Brown – all elite athletes who are generally recognized as being great. But even these icons of sport aren’t without their detractors.
But one player, one figure in the sports landscape today, has felt the unwavering and merciless wrath of these “greatness distributors.” Every move that he makes is under the microscope, both while he is playing and in his daily life. He is second-guessed at every turn. Even his successes are turned into “well he could’ve done more” moments.
That player is LeBron James, the most criticized athlete in the world today.
It would take a lot longer than one blog post to document all of the times that James has been unfairly broken down by his critics. But I’m going to focus on the most recent incident. Facing another round of nonstop criticism for his play after his Miami Heat team lost to the Indiana Pacers to go down 2 games to 1 in their Eastern Conference playoff series, LeBron went out the next game and dropped a 40-18-9 line on the Pacers. That’s 40 points, 18 rebounds and 9 assists (which should have been 10 if not for Mike Miller missing a wide open 3-pointer off a LeBron pass). That is a ridiculous line. He carried the Heat on his back and got a must-have victory. It was proof why he deservedly won his third MVP award this season.
Then what does he do for an encore? How about a little 30-point, 10-rebound, 8-assist night to lead Miami to the victory by 32 points, 115-83. So in the span of two games, with the volume of his critics louder than it had been since, well, a few weeks ago (they’re a pretty constant bunch), James scored a combined 70 (70!) points, grabbed 28 (28!) rebounds, dished out 17 (17! and should have been 18) assists and helped the Heat outscore the Pacers by 47 points. I’d say that’s a pretty good response.
But is it good enough for the detractors? Of course not! The guy won’t be exonerated or forgiven for his disastrous “The Decision” special until he is able to slip a championship ring on his finger. No matter how dominant he is on the court – I don’t think I’m going out on a limb saying he’s the best player in the world right now – or how much he’s working to repair his image, James will always be cast in the villain role or as the guy who can’t win the big game, until he brings home a title. It doesn’t matter if he’s playing with four guys he picked up at Bingo night at the local senior center, the 2012 playoffs are subtitled “Let’s See If LeBron Is Good Enough For Us Today.” Which, I have learned, will be almost impossible.