Larry Legend Confirms: LeBron James is NOT Liam Neeson
Another guest spot from Adam Redling. (Ed. note: I changed “cut-your-throat-out gene” to “throat-punching gene” because we’re big advocates of Liam Neeson, and I wanted an excuse to use him in the title.)
Some people’s judgments are more valid than other’s in the court of public opinion. If you have a problem with your car, you go to a mechanic, not a gym teacher; if you split your head open, you go to a doctor, not the night manager at your local McDonalds. So it makes sense that for an accurate appraisal of LeBron James, you would consult an expert.
You would look for an expert who is highly regarded and knows the ins-and-outs of the NBA. You would hope to find someone who understands the intricacies of the game, and someone who understands what it means to be a player in the league. You would look for someone who has been to the highest level of the profession, because a 13-year veteran with several MVP trophies and NBA Championship rings would be more intelligently able to speak about LeBron than a 12th man who only stayed in the league for two years. To cover all your bases, you preferably would also want this expert to have experience as both a NBA coach and front-office executive in order to have insight into all the facets of the game.
And so when Larry Bird, who fills all the above credentials, spoke about LeBron James earlier this month during an interview, his statements would seemingly be very credible.
But because several experts’ opinions always carry more weight than a single one’s, you would hope to get several other top-notch NBA experts to weigh in, let’s say arguably the greatest two players ever— Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson.
Now, if Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Larry Bird all shared a similar viewpoint of a particular player, it would be pretty fair to assume that this viewpoint would be valid, with their 14 combined championships, 11 NBA MVPs, 11 Final’s MVPs, and various coaching and front-office experiences, and all.
Since “The Decision,” these are statements Jordan, Johnson, and Bird have made regarding LeBron:
Jordan on LeBron teaming with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh:
“There’s no way, with hindsight, I would’ve ever called up Larry, called up Magic and said, ‘Hey, look, let’s get together and play on one team.’ But that’s … things are different. I can’t say that’s a bad thing. It’s an opportunity these kids have today. In all honesty, I was trying to beat those guys.”
Johnson on Kobe v. LeBron:
“There’s always going to be guys who win championships in the NBA, except LeBron. Don’t be mad. Everybody asks me, ‘Who is better between Kobe or LeBron?’ I’m like, are you kidding me? Kobe has five championships and LeBron has zero.”
Bird on which modern player he would most like to play with:
“Probably Kobe… his desire to win, his dedication in the offseason to get better, and he’s just tough. But if you want to have fun…you play with LeBron. It’d probably be more fun to play with LeBron, but if you want to win and win and win, it’s Kobe.”
For those keeping score, the above translates into Jordan bashing LeBron for his inability to lead a team and hiding in Wade’s shadow, Magic outright ripping LeBron for his inability to win when it mattered, and Bird calling LeBron an entertaining player who doesn’t have the throat-punching gene that all great players possess, which happens to be the same gene that make the very names of Jordan, Magic, Bird, and Kobe forever etched into the collective consciousness; I know this because I’ve never seen a Jordan poster with the phrase, “Just Do It…Unless You’re not Talented Enough to Closeout Games by Yourself.”
For his part, LeBron responded to Bird’s comment by stating, “It’s simple, [Kobe] has five rings and I have none, so it’s easy to say that. If I had five rings and Kobe had none, it’d probably be the other way around.”
(Right LeBron, and if I had one Nobel Prize for Literature and Ernest Hemingway had none, “it’d probably be the other way around,” too).
LeBron came into the league as everyone’s darling. With his physical domination of the league apparent from Day 1, and his flair for making his circus dunks on ESPN’s highlight reels look easy on a nightly basis, everyone—media and public alike—praised LeBron more with every dunk he threw down and every regular season game he won.
Now, in his eighth NBA year, both the public and LeBron’s contemporaries are demanding more than spectacular dunks and ultimately meaningless regular season victories for their unchecked adulation. Style over substance can only take you so far before the act wears thin.
What LeBron doesn’t get—and has never gotten—is that you actually have to hold court over a kingdom before you can dub yourself “King.” Otherwise, you open yourself up to criticism for looking like a pretentious fraud when the “King” gets bounced out of the Eastern Conference Finals.
As made glaringly obvious in the past year–and-a-half, especially by Jordan, Magic, and now Bird’s comments, the LeBron honeymoon is most definitely over.