Tuesday, May 23, 2006

In Appreciation

With the Cavaliers valiantly forcing the Pistons to a Game 7 (though the end result was not what we were looking for), I thought that it was time to throw in my two cents on the phenomenon that is LeBron James.

Discussing LeBron with a friend from St. Louis (which doesn’t have an NBA team and is not a basketball town) who was asking me if LeBron was as good as ESPN and others (SI’s The Greatest Ever) had made him out to be. I shared with him this story:

During the regular season, my brother and I attended the Spurs-Cavs game, excited to see how LeBron would stack up against one of the elite teams in the league and some of the elite players in the NBA.

What transpired over the game was the most eye-opening and impressive performance that I have ever seen at a live sports event. The best way to describe it would be to make an analogy here (with apologies to the King of the Analogy – Bud Shaw) to allow most people understand what was seen.

Remember in Little League or High School sports, when there was one kid in the league who was far and away the best player on the field (or floor) at all times? Maybe it was the kid who threw the first curveball you’d ever seen, or maybe the freshman that contributed to the varsity squad. There was an aura around them and, knowing that you were going against that player that day, you were already inherently at a disadvantage. Everyone knew that this player would move onto the next level and thrive there. They were the biggest, strongest, fastest, most talented player you’d ever seen with your own eyes, and his superiority was obvious from the moment the game started.

OK, are we all on the same page? Do we all know the type of player we’re talking about?

Well that’s the player we saw that night at the Q. LeBron was the best player on the court at all times, without question. Did I mention that he was on the floor with the defending NBA Champions? That same feeling was evident throughout the thrilling playoff run.

When LeBron is on the floor, there is a level of confidence that I, as a fan, have. It’s that you have the best player on the floor, making the best decisions for YOUR team at all times. This, in Cleveland, is a rarity. Sure, we’ve seen the situation – but that player is generally wearing the other jersey. Not so with the 23 in wine and gold.

Finally, here’s the thing – there is no “higher level of competition” for LeBron to stack himself up against, there is no “next step”. This is it, and he’s 21 years old. The World is his; we’re just living in it. These playoffs have only reinforced that notion.

My buddy in St. Louis responded that the way that LeBron distinguishes himself on the court is identical to the way that Albert Pujols stands out on the baseball field. After questioning whether this LeBron phenomenon could possibly have a peer, he threw some numbers at me.
After 5 ML seasons, this is what Pujols has accomplished:
.332 / 201 / 621 / 1.037

Impressed? Now, here’s the high and low numbers for his first five years:
Low: .314 (2002)
High: .359 (2003)

Low: 34 (2002)
High: 46 (2004)

Low: 117 (2005)
High: 130 (2001)

Low: .955 (2002)
High: 1.106 (2003)

Unbelievable consistency, right? Now try this…he turns 27 NEXT January and these numbers don’t count 2006, as he’s only hitting .315 with 22 HR and 54 RBI with a 1.252 OPS through 43 games.

So, rather than lamenting the fact that the Cavaliers 2006 season is over, let’s time to take a step back, appreciate these two special talents and how they are making history every day that they lace them up.

Particularly when LeBron and the James Gang go into 2007 a year older, wiser, and better.


Baltimoran said...

I wouldn't have been offended if you used my name when describing that player with an "aura around them", of course everyone remembers my senior Greater Cleveland Conference tennis season at 3rd singles when i dominated

Bill Simmons needs to stop the Lebron free agency talk, if he doesn't resign on July 1st i will cry

after seeing perez flip his bat after drilling a Santana pitch, i can only assume there will be fight in minnesota

t-bone said...

Article on Pronk. Did anyone hear him on Rome yesterday? Good stuff.