LeBandwagon - Hop On While There's Room
October 30, 2003
by William K. Wolfrum
Perhaps it’s too early to call Lebron James the greatest thing to happen to basketball since someone figured out that cutting the bottom out of the peach baskets gave the game a better flow.
But following his magnificent 25-point, nine-assist, four-steal performance at Arco Arena in Sacramento on Wednesday, the James’ bandwagon has collapsed under those jumping on with glee.
Sure, it’s only one game, and by the time you read this James may have thrown up enough bricks in Phoenix to rebuild most of Southern California, but it doesn’t really matter - this kid is beyond anything NBA fans have ever seen before.
James has already proven himself to be the greatest 18-year-old basketball player in history. What he did in Sacramento, arguably the toughest arena to play a road game in the NBA, is beyond description. Going against a loaded Kings squad, James was more often then not the best player on the floor.
Now, while Sean Elliott and crew announcing the game on ESPN melted like 11-year-old female NSync fans at James’ unselfish breakaway pass to Ricky Davis as a sign that James was mature, there was a moment immediately after that showed me what kind of player he is destined to be.
Down by a dozen or so in the first half, James actually started yelling at his veteran teammates to tighten up on defense. And they did! Are you kidding me? This kid is barely old enough to be killed in Baghdad, and he’s taking charge of his team?
OK, it’s not like he was yelling at Kobe and Shaq, but his interest in being a leader is astounding. Obviously all the talk he has done about just wanting to make his team better was more than rhetoric.
Of course, there were some negatives of his first NBA game, but none were really his fault. First, ESPN felt it mandatory to show the overtime period of the Knicks-Magic game. So while James was hitting a ridiculous fade-away jumper, throwing an alley-oop pass and slamming down a ferocious dunk, we were stuck watching Kurt Thomas firing up an airball at the buzzer.
Great thinking, ESPN. We’ll cherish those historic images of Allan Houston and Tracy McGrady looking sullen for the rest of our lives. Thanks.
Secondly, the Cavaliers think defense is what Tom Sawyer painted. James is obviously going to have trouble defending guys like Mike Bibby for awhile, that’s understandable. But the best thing Davis seems to have done on defense is take a shot at his own basket to get a rebound and a triple-double. And all that got him was a bitch-slapping from DeShaun Stevenson.
So Lebron will have to deal with a lot of losing in Cleveland. His teammates already appear confused at what he brings to the table. It’s like Secretariat running a race with show ponies.
But -- to use the new, over-used, NBA cliché – Lebron’s basketball IQ is off the charts. Plus he’s built like a linebacker. Remember when Jordan, Kobe and KG came into the league? They each weighed a buck-fifty or so. There’s no comparison.
So yes, I’m on the Lebron James bandwagon. So long as he avoids inviting a girl up to his hotel room at 2 a.m. and they stop showing that tedious commercial where he holds the ball for several eternities, I think we’ll all be there very soon.