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.

The Everyman Star

The word ‘superstar’ is thrown around a lot these days.

In game 1 of the Denver-Golden State series, Doris Burke was foolishly anointing Ty Lawson a superstar on the rise. Doris Burke was just doing what so many analysts do. Hyperbolizing the stardom of professional athletes. Those who are only well-known to fans following the particular sport and understand that athlete’s greatness within their sport.

Ty Lawson is not even a star, much less a superstar.

Heck, I would argue that Lebron James and Kobe Bryant are the NBA’s only two true superstars. They are the only players that have a significant reach to the public beyond those who care about basketball.

Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Dwight Howard are stars. They will be known to the average sports fan. However, my mom is going to be utterly confused if I start a sentence involving any of those guys.

Steph Curry?

He is well be on his way to surpassing those stars and he just might be knocking on the door of legitimate superstardom. Kobe/Lebron territory and that’s no joke. Steph Curry is everything that Lebron James, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant are not. He has something that none of them will ever have.

He is relatable.

No, he isn’t tiny like Muggsy Bogues. But Steph Curry isn’t imposing either. He is an unintimidating 6 foot 3, 185 pounds. He went to a small school because no one thought he was good enough. He beat the odds in a Cinderella-like fashion.

His game isn’t intimidating either. He has that silky smooth jumper we all wish we had but he can’t just pull up whenever he wants. Remember, he is not 6 foot 9. He is the opposite of physically dominating. He has crazy handles but they aren’t made for an And1 street ball mix tape in a Jamal Crawford style.

Despite the fact that his Dad, Dell Curry, played in the NBA, there is no sense of entitlement or superiority. There is no gorilla chest pounding after a slam dunk in a meaningless first round series against a relatively hapless opponent.

There is passion though. Lots of it. The man is not without personality by any means. He gets pumped in a manner that doesn’t come across as smug or arrogant. He reacts to the energy of the game the way many of us probably imagine we would as well.

Steph Curry could be this generation’s Allen Iverson, except he won’t be broke at 35. He is not the same player as Allen Iverson in any sense but his appeal to fans is similar.

He is the little engine that could.

With a bum ankle, unthinkable scoop shots, rainbow 3’s and one-handed dimes, Curry carried the Golden State Warriors to the 2nd round of the playoffs. Although their double-double machine David Lee was missing for most of the series, Curry was still able to step up and did so at the most opportune moments as only a superstar can.

Most importantly, Steph Curry is a joy to watch. There is more to his game for the average viewer than say, a Chris Paul. You don’t have to be a basketball person to appreciate what Curry does on a night-to-night basis.

He needs a championship calibre team though. No one becomes a superstar without championship runs. Multiple championship runs. Steph Curry could possibly be the scorer’s version of Steve Nash, who is a borderline superstar in his own right (Note: He is a superstar in Canada). Playing in a run and gun system that never fails to generate excitement, Curry already has a sidekick for years to come in fellow sharpshooter Klay Thompson.

With a guy like Curry, any franchise has the ability to build a team good enough to make a run a championships for years to come.

Without Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Rajon Rondo and Jeremy Lin in the 2013 NBA playoffs, Steph Curry has become the darling of the entire league. The underdog role fits him more perfectly than, well, a glass slipper.

Steph Curry won’t be able to shake that label but that isn’t a bad thing. He will always be the little man beating the odds. As a professional athlete, it is what makes him so endearing. To think, this is just year 1 of his rise to stardom. As long as he stays healthy, he will be one of the NBA’s premier stars.

With a little bit of luck, he might be a superstar too.

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.

Hating on Howard Will Stop

It’s a match made in heaven that even eHarmony could have figured out. The Hollywood personality finally getting a taste of what Hollywood life is.

Dwight Howard and Brooklyn never really seemed right.

Now it’s time for the public to stop hating on Dwight Howard. I’m not telling them to stop hating. Rather, I’m saying it’s only a matter of time before Howard starts to feel the love again.

People are already starting to forget about the whole ‘indecision’ saga and are envisioning the Lakers sexy starting 5 of Nash, Kobe Bryant, Metta Word Peace, Pau Gasol and Superman himself. They are talking about whether the Lakers have the depth to match up against the likes of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Miami Heat. They are dreaming of alley-hoops and comedy sketches between one of the all-time great point guards and one of the most athletic 7-footers to ever step foot on an NBA floor.

I said all the way back in March that Dwight Howard will only be booed by the Orlando fans. Heck, that might not even be the case anymore by the time the Lakers take the court in Orlando next season.

The sports world is a very forgiving one.

A lot of guys would now rather have a beer with Tiger Woods, for reasons you can imagine, than condemn him like so many did only a couple of years ago. Michael Vick has gone from dog fighter back to NFL fan favourite, you know, when he’s not injured. Lebron James is no longer a villain simply because he won a championship and, apparently, winning cures all that ails.

People were appalled when Tiger Woods was caught cheating with 896 women. They were disgusted when Michael Vick was found to be cruel and unusual to man’s best friend. Clevelanders and non-Clevelanders burned jerseys and tore down posters when Lebron somewhat predictably spurned the Cavs.

However, people seem genuinely excited about the possibilities with Dwight Howard in a Lakers uniform.

Dwight Howard’s situation is not nearly as shocking as the others because his events were dragged out over the course of the past year. Nevertheless, hate is not the word that would define the reaction to Superman’s relocation.

Now that it is all over, Dwight Howard will probably get nothing more than a slap on the wrist in comparison to Lebron James. The NBA world will forget about Dwight Howard as fast as they will forget about 95% of the athletes in the 2012 Olympics. His immaturity will soon turn back to lovability.

D-12 is no longer the focal point either. He is the 3rd superstar on one of Los Angeles’s many prominent professional sports teams.

Dwight Howard toyed with a fan base that isn’t close to a championship with or without him. The rest of the NBA was just annoyed. Unlike Lebron James, who’s decision felt like a Mike Tyson punch to the noggin, all Dwight Howard kept doing was poking us in the arm like an infuriating little brother would.

The indecision wasn’t the worst thing in the world. It only felt like that in the moment.

The NBA world jumped on the hate Howard bandwagon. Most of them aren’t real Dwight Howard haters though. They have already jumped off and are running after the LA Lakers wagon.

Dwight Howard and all.

Also, please vote for me to become Canada’s Next Sportscaster! I am one of the 24 finalists and I need your votes. It only takes a few seconds. Just follow the link: http://www.drafted.ca/finalists/chris-ross/

You can follow me on Twitter @paintstheblack and subscribe to Painting the Black to get the latest posts. Agree? Disagree? You can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com or reply in the comments section below.

Can’t Build Around Bynum

Andrew Bynum isn’t even 25 years old yet.

The Los Angeles Lakers have been waiting for Andrew Bynum to mature for the past 5 seasons. He finally broke out this year as the 2nd best center in the NBA, putting up 18.7 points and 11.8 rebounds per game during the regular season. Dominating numbers from a dominating physical presence. But don’t let his physical stature and the numbers fool you, Bynum still possesses the mind of a child.

That mind is not going to change.

Andrew Bynum has been somewhat of an enigma all season for the Lakers. The infamous 3-point shot that sent him straight to the pine encapsulates most everything that Bynum is and has been for Los Angeles. After the benching, Bynum sulked for much of the game, refusing to join the huddle in team timeouts and subsequently played some uninspired 4th quarter basketball. He reacted to the situation like a petulant child.

Immaturity is a good excuse for only so long.

The young ancient Roman emperor Nero passed off his failings and cruelty to the public as youthful mistakes but it was said that this was more a fault of his character and not his age. The same could be said of Andrew Bynum, you know, minus the cruelty.

Last night, after another uninspired 10 point, 4 rebound performance from Bynum, he was questioned by the media about his expectations of a possible contract extension with the Lakers. Bynum would give an answer once again suggesting his inexperience got the better of him. He said that “I’m not sure,” and “It really doesn’t matter to me. I’ll play anywhere. I think for the most part I had a pretty decent season and then an OK postseason. Obviously this last game was the worst game I’ve probably played. It sucks, obviously, we’re going fishing. My focus is next year and coming back stronger, adding things to my game”

Inexperienced words from an inexperienced man.
This whole immaturity thing, ironically, is getting a little old for Andrew Bynum though. There has been no maturation for Bynum and it doesn’t appear as though there ever will be. His comments exhibit the signs of a kid who doesn’t learn. All he had to do was fake his undying devotion to the Lakers but he couldn’t do that.

As much as Orlando fans, or any fans for that matter really, would love to see Andrew Bynum in their teams’ jersey, he is not a player anyone should be building a franchise around.

Bynum is not a centrepiece. His game would indicate otherwise but his mind won’t ever catch up to his skills on the court. He insisted that he would continue to shoot 3’s after getting benched for the very act. He said that it doesn’t really matter where he’ll play. Most importantly, he continues to expose his lack of passion and concern for winning.

Despite playing with Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum doesn’t show up to work every day. It is more than a little distressing that with their playoff lives at stake, Bynum came up with 10 points, 4 rebounds and 0 blocks. The 10 points are not the issue because sometimes you don’t score, especially with Kobe taking 33 shots. The 4 rebounds and 0 blocks are what pop off the page.

When everything was on the line, the Lakers center came up with a Terrell Owens when he is mad at his quarterback type performance. Apathetic.

Don’t chalk up his poor play to immaturity that will mature sooner or later. Bynum has a body of work as evidence to the contrary. Immature is what Andrew Bynum is.

Until recently, Dwight Howard was applauded for his boyish charm and his juvenile attitude was seen as something that he would grow out of. I think it’s safe to say that ship has sailed. D-12’s infantile behaviour has already cost his franchise one of the best coaches in the NBA and in due time he will force the Magic to rebuild completely from scratch.

When you talk about championship material, Andrew Bynum is one of the last guys you would think of. Sometimes the light turns on for certain players like a flip has just been switched. For the past few years, it seemed as though the light just needed to be switched on for Andrew Bynum. Now it’s clear that the light in Bynum’s head is forever broken, never to be turned on.

Barring injuries, Andrew Bynum will carry on being one of the most productive centers in the NBA for years to come. He has been given too many gifts from the big man upstairs. A championship is by no means out of the question for whichever team Bynum ends up playing for as long as he is not the one leading the charge.

Some team will expect Andrew Bynum to eventually be the future of their franchise. But how can anyone expect Bynum to lead a group of players when he can’t even lead himself in the right direction?

Andrew Bynum’s true colours were revealed again last night and those colours aren’t piloting any team to an NBA championship.

You can follow me on Twitter @paintstheblack and subscribe to Painting the Black to get the latest posts.

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

Super Teams are Super Bad for NBA

Competitive balance. That might be a phrase NBA fans will want to keep in mind for the future.

The media, fans and probably even David Stern love the idea of more super teams. Big players in big markets on big teams means big ratings, right? I mean, how crazy would a Heat-Laker final be with Chris Paul and Dwight Howard playing for LA?

Miami, Boston, New York, Los Angeles. The latest, most likely false, rumours speculate a move of disgruntled stars Chris Paul and Dwight Howard suiting up alongside Kobe Bryant in the purple and gold. A dream team of the best center, best point guard and best(?) shooting guard in the league is more than a little intriguing for even the most casual of NBA fans.

The idea of another “dream” team is no doubt intriguing but it is quite possibly the worst thing that could happen for the NBA.

It’s one of those slippery slope situations. Boston started it all with their OG big 3 followed by LBJ’s chosen destination and New York’s almost predictable failure in their attempt to create a super team dynasty.

The problem is, where’s the talent for the rest of the league?

Top tier talent comes at a premium but when that talent is concentrated in a few very select cities the premium becomes the non-existent. There won’t be any players left for the 25 or 26 other teams if this kind of ridiculousness persists.

It may be as much fun for you to keep up with super teams as it is for your girlfriend to keep up with the Kardashians but the obvious reality of the matter is that there is no NBA without the smaller market franchises. Competitive balance is already an issue in the NBA, especially in the Eastern Conference where a below .500 record can earn teams a lot more than a participant ribbon. Imagine what it would be like with a few more celebrity filled teams.

Amidst all the excitement, no one seems to be worrying about how the possibility of more super teams could severely affect the majority of NBA franchises. The league can’t work with 5, 6 or 7 teams carrying 3 or, dare I say, 4 superstars. The NBA is moving towards a league where glory driven superstars’ only hope of competing will be to put their egos aside and form a star-studded force of their own. It will become a classic case of ‘if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.’

Oh yeah, the NBA will also feature 24 teams playing 82 meaningless games. 80% of fan bases won’t have anything more to cheer for than ‘fast to last!’ Sure, you can have your odd struggling franchises here and there, but a league full of them isn’t going to fly.

Chris Paul and Dwight Howard probably won’t end up in LA when it is all said and done but you can bet your bottom dollar that they will be offering their services to a contending team with other stars. Creating a legacy of your own is quickly becoming as popular as pogs have been in the last decade.

Too many fan bases without a star player to root for is a scary thought. The draft won’t be enough to compensate 20 plus teams’ inability to contend for a title. Hope is the one consolation for struggling teams but if the NBA continues to steer in this direction there won’t be enough hope to go around.

The occupy protestors should get where I’m coming from. The NBA will be the professional sports’ model of class stratification. Those franchises left out of the NBA’s super team exclusive country club won’t know what hit them. Soon enough they will be sleeping in tents outside David Stern’s office protesting the NBA’s 1% elite.

The NFL thrives on competitive balance and a constant influx of new playoff teams from year-to-year. Granted, football is much a much more team oriented sport than basketball and if you don’t believe me then you might want to look at the Philadelphia Eagles. Nevertheless, competitive balance, more than anything, ensures unwavering interest from fan bases from teams 1 to 30. Competitive balance is a big part of what increases the NFL’s already massive pool of money seasons after season.

NBA fans should stop supporting the prospect of more star-studded teams because in the long run it might just be the thing that kills the sport. A league of super team normality won’t spark the same interest that the Miami Heat have and still are generating. Individually the smaller market teams don’t mean much to the league but as a collective unit they are everything.

Competitive balance?

I wouldn’t mind a little more of that in the coming years.

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 happily return the favour.

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