Michael Jordan Standard

Lebron James

Lebron James is the best basketball player on the planet.

So what?

Lebron may make the right plays in crunch time but, when it comes down to it, he will never be a hero. We are a society that crave great leaders and heroes that are so few and far between. We celebrate those that can rise to the occasion against all the odds and still come out on top. It’s why we love movies like Spartacus, Gladiator and Robin Hood.

Call the Lebron haters whatever you want but you can never fault them for saying Lebron James will never be Michael Jordan or even Kobe Bryant.

Forget about the different eras and the hand-checking. Don’t give Dennis Rodman the attention he seeks, Lebron would be amazing no matter what. However, what will never change from the days of gladiators to the end of time is a person’s psyche. Very few can combine the ability for greatness with that killer instinct. It doesn’t matter what game a person is playing or how that game has evolved over the course of time. What matters in this discussion is that the mental aspect of the game will always be a constant.

Whether you are celebrating or criticizing Kobe Bryant for taking a fade-away 3-pointer while he is triple-teamed, there is no denying that those are shots Lebron James is, for the most part, unwilling to take. Whether, from a basketball analytics perspective, taking the low-percentage shot is the right or wrong thing to do in the moment, to be truly great you have to be willing to do the wrong thing sometimes.

Killer Instinct. It’s something that Lebron James does not possess to the extent that Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant do.

At this point in his career, Lebron is not clutch or unclutch. He should not ever be labelled as either. The dreaded word is used far too often to define a player when most athletes fall somewhere in the meaty part of the imaginary clutch-unclutch bell curve (see Tony Romo).

Lebron can make as many clutch shots and win as many championships as he wants. It won’t change his nature and who he will always be as a person. Nothing can do that. Lebron is not a killer by trade. This is what exposes him to criticism and justifiably so. He is not a live by the sword, die by the sword kind of leader.

Fortunately for Lebron haters, to be truly great in the game of basketball, you must be a killer. Any semblance of fear or passivity won’t cut it.

Lebron supporters can thank Michael Jordan for that.

Lebron is labelled as passive by his detractors because anything less than a merciless approach is seen as weakness. There is no middle ground. As the self-proclaimed ‘King’, he is measured to a different standard. The Michael Jordan standard is a virtually impossible one for any athlete to reach yet this is how comparisons work, especially when you want to be the ‘King’. Lebron James doesn’t get compared to Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh. It’s all relative.

You think it is right for Barack Obama to be held to the same standards as Joe Biden?

It isn’t all Michael Jordan’s doing though. It is from the thousands of years of human history. Stories both of fact and fiction telling us about the warriors who became legends. In these stories, it takes a special individual to be respected for not only his actions but also for who they are as a person.

Lebron James the player is widely respected. Lebron James the person is a whole other issue.

Athletes are the modern day warriors. We hold our athletes to the standards of not only past athletes but also to the legendary warriors throughout history – Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great and so on. Warriors that we have heard and read about since we were children.

Real warriors don’t make excuses, don’t get tired and they definitely don’t ask their coach for a breather in game 1 of the NBA finals. As obvious as it is that a warrior may need a little assistance, real warriors don’t call their teammates out to the media or refer back to their Cleveland days to ensure everyone knows how much of a warrior they are being at that time. Real warriors don’t do the King Kong chest pound in game 4 of a 1st round sweep.

Most importantly, a real warrior’s burden should never be too much to carry. At least, in the eyes of everyone else, it should seem that way.

Lebron James may still become a legend in his own right. But a legend only because of God-given physical ability.

Not his mental ability.

Agree? Disagree? Reply in the comments section below or e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com

Also, you can follow me on twitter @chrisrossPTB and I will happily return the favour.

It’s Your Fault Pat Riley!

Lebron is tired. Dwyane Wade can’t score. Chris Bosh is injured.

The Big 3 are in shambles.

The Miami Heat’s crisis goes much higher up than the Big 3 though.

Beat the Heat is becoming all too real for Miami fans. A game 3 shellacking led by Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert has put Miami’s championship aspirations into serious question. When Derrick Rose limped off the floor it appeared a free road to the NBA Final was given to the Heat. Now it looks more like rush hour traffic in Seattle.

On a night where the Heat finally got some secondary scoring, they weren’t able to come close to the Pacers. After the 1st quarter, Miami was outscored by Indiana 77-49.

What’s wrong with the Heat? Well, Pat Riley, you have some explaining to do.

Pat Riley is supposed to be a genius. He’s been more like Stu Jackson and Isaiah Thomas rolled into one since Lebron, Wade and Bosh rolled into town. The Miami Heat are terrible. Their deficiencies have been masked in large part by the most dominant player in the NBA history. Unfortunately for Pat Riley, the King is not Superman.

Most people, including myself, thought that Pat Riley had assembled enough talent to complement his stars. Their core seemed too good and was enough to overcompensate for their glaring weaknesses. The redundancy of 2 ball dominating wing players on the same team wouldn’t matter to an extent where the Miami Heat would be in danger of being knocked out in the 2nd round.

You can throw that gobbledygook down the drain.

Chris Bosh’s injury has shown that the Heat stars should never have been referred to as the Big 2.5. However, his absence in games 2 and 3 has made clear what an awful job Pat Riley has done over the past couple of seasons.

Crystal clear.

The Swiss Army Knife, Mike Miller, was brought in to be the necessary 4th wheel to smoothen the ride all the way to their championship parade. An aging Shane Battier was signed in the 2011 offseason to provide harassing defence and some scoring pop off the bench. Energy center Joel Anthony was signed to a 5 year, $18 million deal in 2010.

Mike Miller hasn’t been able to find his groove. Battier, a career 38% 3-point shooter, shot 33.9% from beyond the arc this season and was an atrocious 0-6 from downtown in game 3 as he started at small forward. Joel Anthony has been riding the pine to start games lately while sharing time with Ronny Turiaf and Dexter Pittman at the 5.

Mike Miller and Shane Battier were deemed shrewd acquisitions at the time. It just hasn’t worked out for the Heat. Riley has made, what appeared to be, solid signings that haven’t turned out as good as expected.

Pat Riley cannot go without blame forever.

While Larry Bird the executive of the year has assembled a team without a superstar that is currently handling Riley’s Heat with ease, Pat Riley sits with his slicked back hair and piercing stare, helpless. He is unable to do anything now. The thing is, it’s not like he has done much with his pet project for the last 2 scrutiny filled years either.

Riley has hoped that he could ride his 3 stars to basketball immortality.

The mastermind hasn’t shown up to work though. He has misevaluated his entire roster. The role players have fit in with the Big 3 about as well as a second cousin twice removed fits in at a family Christmas dinner.

Pat Riley hasn’t made the right moves, whatever those moves should have been. I can’t tell you what Pat Riley should have done because I don’t know.

Remember, I’m not the genius. Pat Riley is.

In theory, great minds make great moves. Pat Riley hasn’t done much out of the ordinary. Battier and Miller were moves everybody could get on board with. Mario Chalmers is an average NBA point guard that shoots an above average percentage from the 3-point line.

Over the past 2 years, the Heat have featured Mario Chalmers, Mike Bibby, Carlos Arroyo, Eddie House and Norris Cole as true point guards. Over the past 2 years, the Heat have featured Joel Anthony, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Juwan Howard, Erick Dampier, Jamaal Magloire, Dexter Pittman, Ronny Turiaf and Eddy Curry as true centers.

Not one role player has overachieved for the Miami Heat. Heck, most have underachieved.

Pat Riley deserves some credit for sticking by his inexperienced but talented young head coach in Erik Spoelstra. Of course, Spoelstra hasn’t gotten it done either.

It’s true that because of the salaries of his 3 stars, Pat Riley has had a limited amount of cap space to work with. Even so, the salary cap can’t excuse Riley of his teams’ shortcomings.

The Miami Heat are not done yet. Although, envisioning the Heat team that played in game 3 fighting for a championship is more than a little difficult.

There’s more than enough blame to go around at this point.

But it’s Pat Riley who should be the first person everyone is looking at.

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Agree? Disagree? You can also E-mail Chris at cross_can15@hotmail.com or reply in the comments section below.

Star Unfairness

Roy Halladay pitchers for the first time at Rogers Centre in a Phillies Uniform

Being unable to challenge our current beliefs. It’s a black mark on our society. We continually accept things because it’s the way it has always been done. I wish we could change that.

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Sports are similar to life in so many ways. The elite of society get the benefit of the doubt. For example, rich men get beautiful women and the beautiful women are so often let off the hook.

In this sense, professional sports are no different.

The Wade’ and Kobe’s in basketball get more fouls called, the Brady’s and Manning’s in football get more yellow flags tossed in their favour and the Roy Halladay’s of the world get a bigger strike zone.

And here I am thinking that equality was something society strived toward.

The Blue Jays and Phillies game today featured Roy Halladay’s long awaited return to the city of Toronto. The game also featured some very inconsistent but typical game calling from home plate umpire Alfonso Marquez.

The fans sure let him know it and more so than any regular season game I have ever seen.

For 9 innings, Alfonso Marquez was giving the benefit to Roy Halladay while Blue Jay pitchers were forced to pitch in a confined strike zone. It all culminated in Blue Jay reliever Jon Rauch’s very amusing ejection. He had reason to be upset considering a 3-2 curve ball that caught the knees on Ryan Howard, that would have ended the inning, was called a ball. He blew up after the next batter, Shane Victorino, hit a single to drive in a run.

He didn’t blow up because of the one call though. It was the frustration of an entire game in which the better team and the better pitcher received better treatment. According to Pitch FX, the Blue Jays had 10 strikes called balls while the Phillies had 1.

The typicality in this kind of umpiring is nothing new. It is everything that is wrong with the mentality of society and how we see people above us. These people are special and we believe they should be treated in that way. Apparently, they have earned something that puts them above the rules.

Greg Maddux built a career on being able get strikes called on pitches thrown 3, 4 and even 5 inches off the plate. These were Pitches that batters had less of a chance at hitting than a chess champion has at picking up Jessica Alba. I guess umpires felt bad for Maddux and his perfect control. He needed extra room off the plate too.

The plate that is supposed to be set in stone. It is there for a reason yet umpires continually choose to expand it for stars like Roy Halladay and Mariano Rivera. It makes great pitchers absolutely unhittable.

Star players haven’t earned the right to bend the rules and rookies shouldn’t have to earn the right to get calls within the rules. The rules are put in place to ensure fairness. Every single player should have earned the right to get the same call as the next no matter how many years they have played in the league or how many 0’s are in their contract.

Referees, umpires, fans, players, former players, writers and analysts all seem to find this appropriate. That should make us livid.

We expect superstars to get better treatment when it should not be the case. It is another one of those instances in society where we accept it because it is the norm and always has been.

Do you think it’s fair when multi-bizzilionaire Alex Rodriguez gets out of paying a speeding ticket and you don’t when you’re struggling to pay the bills with 2 kids and a second mortgage on the house? I didn’t think so.

It also isn’t fair for Carlos Villaneuva to have to fight for every strike when his considerably more talented counterpart Roy Halladay does not.

I’m not sure what makes me angrier. Star players receiving every edge imaginable or people unwilling to challenge completely illogical societal norms.

When are fans going to step and say that this isn’t okay? When are fans going to step up and say that we can’t ignore this any longer?

Talent across sports will never be on an equal plain but there is no reason why the rules can’t be. Stop excusing the problem with “he has earned it” and start challenging the issue at hand.

As similar as sports can be to life it still isn’t the real world. This might be a fact of life but it doesn’t have to be a fact in sports.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. Also, follow me on twitter @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favour.

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Lebron’s Championship Asterisk

Lebron isn’t being defined by what he has done or rather hasn’t done in the 4th quarter. He wasn’t given a blank sheet to start a new legacy when he uttered the now most overused phrase in sports. When Lebron James took his talents to South Beach his legacy became partially defined no matter how many championships he won.

The Chosen One has already given up his opportunity to be considered one of the best champions in NBA history. He gave it up when he decided that he needed help to be mentioned in the same breath as Michael Jordan and Bill Russell. Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh can’t elevate him to that status. They’re the reason he can’t reach it.

If Lebron James ever does win a championship they should put an asterisk beside his name in the record books.

He doesn’t deserve to be given the full credit like other superstars have been given. He could win a few championships. He could win 10 championships but unless the other superstar and perennial all-star on his team vanish, then Lebron’s place among the true greats is cemented at least a notch lower.

Championships aren’t the measure of a man.

Related: NBA Playoffs – Where Legends Are Made

Lebron James doesn’t understand a lot of things. He didn’t understand how many people he had hurt leaving the only team he ever knew the way that he did. Lebron cannot comprehend that winning some championships won’t right all his wrongs. He didn’t understand that joining forces was the worst possible decision he could make.

It’s not just his now humpty dumpty public image that made the decision so poor. He has yet to realize that, given his talent level, taking the responsibility to win championships on his own back is the most important quality a superstar can have.

Michael Jordan had Scottie Pippen. Scottie Pippen says Lebron James is better than Michael Jordan. Scottie Pippen has trouble seeing, you know, with his green eyes and all.

Scottie Pippen didn’t get as much press, maybe less than he deserved, but there’s a reason for that. He was a bonafide second fiddle, Michael Jordan’s second fiddle. Lebron James can also be a second fiddle in his own right, depending on the night.

A guy can’t be a second fiddle on a semi-regular basis and still be considered one of the all-time greats. It doesn’t work that way. He can be one of the great talents of all-time but not one of the all-time greats.

Lebron’s championship mentality was questioned when he first became “His Quitness” against the Boston Celtics in game 5 last season. James’ lack of a championship mentality became clear after the decision. It’s crystal clear now.

Where would Lebron James be without Chris Bosh averaging over 23 points a game against the Chicago Bulls or Dwyane Wade pouring in 28.4 a game in this year’s finals?

Related: Miami is Wade Country

The passiveness Lebron has been content to play with in these NBA Finals is consistent with his mentality. His passiveness told him to wave the white flag and decide that he wanted to take the easy way out. If Lebron James cared at all about his legacy, he should never have bothered to start singing “I get by with a little help from my friends.”

Lebron thinks he can prove the critics wrong by winning championships. However, each year that Lebron plays will be one more year that he didn’t win a championship, a real championship.

If Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire want to team up it won’t be the same. They aren’t going to be judged like Lebron James. They don’t have the Jordan comparisons flying at them from every angle. I don’t remember any of them proclaiming themselves to be the king or get “CHOSEN1” tattooed across their back. A championship for those guys wouldn’t have an asterisk. It would be legit.

I always thought that a King was a person who leads, not a person who follows. You would think that a chosen one wouldn’t give in so easily when the road gets a little bumpy.

Giving up his number wasn’t a gesture out of respect for Michael Jordan. It was Lebron trying to stop the comparisons but it ended up being a metaphor for his legacy. By going to Miami he gave up any chance he still had left at reaching his ultimate goal and his number went along with it. He tried to be Michael Jordan but fell short. So he gave it up.

No one will ever know what Lebron James was capable of. Who knows if he had 6 championships in him all by himself. Maybe he would have been the greatest of all-time. We can always speculate but it won’t give us the answer.

It’s why any and every championship that Lebron James ever wins should have an asterisk beside it. Like Barry Bonds, Mark Mcgwire and Sammy Sosa, we will never know what could have been.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. Also, follow me on twitter @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favour.

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Dirk Nowitzki Hasn’t Been Good Enough

The Mavericks might as well surrender if Dirk Nowitzki can't get it going

Dirk Nowitzki is cementing his legacy in the 2011 playoffs. There’s no denying that. I wrote about it last week. He brought his Mavericks back with 9 straight points in the final 2:43 of the 4th quarter to cap off a stunning 22-5 run, which included the game-winning lay-up with 3.6 seconds left on the clock.

It’s the kind of stuff that happens to legends. No big deal.

Related: NBA Playoffs – Where Legends Are Made

Still, the run that saved Dallas’ championship hopes is overshadowing the fact that Dirk Nowitzki has to play better. Dallas is awful lucky to be going home tied 1-1. Other than the final 2:43 of game 2, Dirk Nowitzki has been rather ordinary. The Miami defence has done more than its part to shut him down.

Nowitzki has averaged 25.5 points a game in the finals but has done it shooting well below the 50% plateau.

Bosh was terrible, Lebron missed clutch shots, and the bench went back to being invisible. Almost everything fell into place for the Mavericks in game 2 yet they were only able to squeak out an unthinkable comeback victory.

The Dallas Mavericks don’t have a roster to make-up for a less than outstanding Dirk Nowitzki. Jason Terry played about as well as he can with Lebron guarding him and they are squeezing virtually every ounce of juice left out of 33-year-old Shawn Marion’s size mismatches.

Dirk Nowitzki needs to play as well as Michael Jordan did in the second half against the Monstars. There is no other alternative. Miami will not give up another lead like that. If Dirk continues to score at this pace the series will be over before you can say “Nowringski.”

It’s surprising that the Mavericks have been able to keep pace at all with Nowitzki playing in this manner. That 4th quarter extra gear that the Heat possess but forgot about in the last 7 minutes of game 2 is a major difference between these two teams. Although the gave the illusion that they have a similar gear, game 2 should not cloud our judgement. The reality is that only one man on the Mavericks who can reach the clutch to shift into that extra special gear.

That man shifted into overdrive late in the 4th quarter when it was just about too late. That can’t happen again. Nowitzki has to be in that gear for 40 minutes, not 2:43.

The Mavericks by themselves don’t have the ability to pull away from the Heat. It will only come from Dirk Nowitzki. The heat have been toying with them, holding out for their opportunity to thrown the hammer down. It’s a cat and mouse game but the Mavericks don’t get to be the cat. On Thursday night, the cat took a 7 minute nap.

A brief mental let down from an inexperienced and immature team has kept the Mavericks in this series. From here on in though, an out of this world Dirk Nowitzki will be the only thing keeping the Mavericks from another disappointing summer.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. Also, follow me on twitter @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favour.

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