LeBron: Is he or is he not?


If you’re a LeBron James or Cleveland Cavaliers fan, you might want to skip this article. Because I am about to tell you that despite all the success he has had in the NBA, LeBron really doesn’t have that many extraordinary basketball skills.

For those LeBron fans still reading, I understand your anger. I can imagine steam spouting from your ears and barroom words rolling out of your mouth. But before you call me any other names hitherto unknown to man, tell me this: What basketball skill does LeBron have that other players don’t?

He is not a great shooter, from the floor or the free throw line. He takes the ball to the basket rather well, but he doesn’t have the finesse on his shot, or the agility, to finish well if he’s not dunking.

He handles the ball pretty well for a big guy, but he is far from the top of the list.

He is among the better rebounders, but there are some with lesser athletic gifts that are, and have been, better. Dennis Rodman comes to mind.

He can make unbelievable passes, and more often than not perfectly placed, but is sometimes careless with the more easy ones.

How many times have you seen him dive on the floor for a loose ball? Yeah, I know he’s likely preserving his body and not wanting to shorten his career like maybe Larry Bird did. But does he want to go down as the guy who played longer than anyone else, or the one who gave his all every time he stepped on the floor?

He is a good defender, but not one of the greatest.

He is a whiner when things don’t his go way – among the worst. No, he is not as idiotically demonstrative as someone like Draymond Green, but I cannot begin to count the number of times I have watched him complain to an official when he thinks he has been fouled, while play goes on at the other end of the floor, leaving his teammates to play four against five. It almost seems like he thinks he has some kind of God-given right to complain, ad nauseam, because, well, because he is “The King.”

And he has a tendency to pass up big shots at the most important points in games. I will never understand it. I suppose he figures that the defense is focused on him and that a teammate has a much better shot, but ‘cmon man, you’re LeBron. You’re the guy who is supposed to take those shots, you’re the guy everyone – fans or not – wants to see take those shots. You’re “The King.” Take the shots.

Could I be right in feeling that I sometimes sense a lack of confidence in LeBron at those moments?

Are you seething yet, LeBron fans? Are you still there?

Because if you are, there is more to this story.

And it is this – regardless of whether you like him or not, LeBron is the biggest, baddest man who ever stepped foot on a basketball floor. He is a freak of nature. He is Adonis in the flesh. When he has a mind to, he can get from one end of the floor to the other as fast as anyone I have ever watched. And he has a quickness incomparable to anyone near his size – ever.

When you put those gifts together with all his other skills – which may not be at the very top of the list in any particular area, but are certainly well above average – he could be the best player that ever stepped on a basketball floor. But the key word in that last sentence is could.

He has unlimited potential, but has he ever fulfilled his potential?

You see, I was once a big LeBron fan. But his disappearing act in the playoffs during the last couple years of his first go-round in Cleveland, then his dance on live TV with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh when he left for Miami, and his non-stop complaining, turned me off.

I am not much of an NBA fan, but I have watched this year’s playoffs more than I ever have, and LeBron leaves me scratching my head. One night he looks like he could beat another team single-handedly, then sometimes it looks like he’s waiting for his teammates to do what only he can.

Just once, before Father Time catches up with him, I hope I get to see LeBron go all out in a playoff series. I want to see him dive on the floor for loose balls, box out and crash the boards with reckless abandon, drive to the hoop play after play after play, fire away from beyond the three-point arc with the confidence of Steph Curry, hustle back and find his man when calls don’t go his way.

Because if he did – and geez, I hate to admit this – but there would be no question about the greatest basketball player of all time.

I wonder if he knows?

Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or [email protected].


By Jeff Gilliland

Contributing Columnist

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