Perspective On LeBron James … Please

If you are a Cleveland Cavalier’s fan, I guess you can take some solace in the fact that the Cavs were down 0-2 in their last series against the Pistons and then won the next four games. And in last year’s NBA Finals, the Mavs led two games to none and the Mavs came up short in the end. But it sure looked to me as if the Cavs were playing as intensely as they could in the 4th quarter as they made their run, but the Spurs are too good a team to yield after leading by more than 20 points. And if the Cavs hope to win, they have to find a way to stop one of the three scorers on the Spurs. When Duncan, Parker and Ginobili put 78 points in the book, it’s going to be a long night. I think the Cavs need a defensive adjustment as much as anything else.

I really do appreciate LeBron James and his talent and his focus during the game. He is a rare and special talent. What I do not appreciate is the apparent need for many writers and commentators to make him into the next Michael Jordan or at the minimum to compare his deeds to Jordan’s accomplishments. There’s plenty of time for that and the time for that is not now. Michael Jordan won six NBA championships; no, he didn’t win them single-handedly, but anyone who watched any of those series knows that Michael Jordan was the most irreplaceable player on the floor for either team. I believe that Michael Jordan was the league MVP five times – it may have been six. Folks, LeBron James hasn’t yet been in the NBA for five years. James is only 22 years old; even if he leads the Cavs back from the precipice they find themselves on, he will not have equaled or surpassed Jordan. There is plenty of time to watch and enjoy LeBron James’ special gifts on the basketball court and then to assess if he equaled or exceeded Michael Jordan’s special gifts on the basketball court.

And let me make the obverse clear too. If the Cavs do lose to the Spurs in this series – even if the Spurs win in a sweep – that does not mean that LeBron James needs to be bashed for not living up to all the hype and hoopla that has surrounded him since his senior year in high school. It is too early to know whether or not he is the best player in the history of the game; at the same time there has been sufficient evidence presented to know for sure that LeBron James is not a stumblebum whose only real talent is making money. Enough already with the commentaries that try to belittle his abilities on the basketball court and to imply he’s just a big guard who really should have gone to college to learn how to really play the game.

I would have thought that the NBA publicity machine would have been able to convince the TV audience for NBA basketball that watching LeBron James’ in his first NBA Finals is “must-see TV”. The NBA publicity machine came up painfully short. In the first game of the Finals on ABC, the overnight rating was 7.8 which is good but not great. True the game did earn the highest rating for any program in that time slot on that night. HOW-EVAH [ /Stephen A. Smith ] that was the lowest rating for a first game of a final series in prime time ever recorded. I can’t find a reference to the ratings for last night’s Game 2; it will be interesting to see how it fared in prime time on a weekend night.

Earlier this year, the Chicago Cubs made a preemptive offer to Notre Dame pitcher/wide receiver, Jeff Samardzija. The Cubs offered him a contract with a guaranteed $10M and he accepted it in lieu of putting his name into the NFL draft pot. The Cubbies are not exactly known for their “home-grown pitchers” but Samardzija obviously felt he could overcome that burden/curse/whatever. At the moment, he’s assigned to the Daytona Cubs in the Florida State League; that league is described as “Class A, Advanced” which probably distinguishes it from some other league which is “Class A, Declined” – or maybe not. At the moment, Samardzija is having serious difficulties at this level. He is 0-5 at the moment with an ERA of 5.40; opposing batters at the “Class A, Advanced” level are hitting .333 against him; his WHIP at that level is 1.67. For the record, none of those statistics are good. The Daytona Cubs have taken him out of the starting rotation and put him in the bullpen. If that doesn’t work, I suggest that he invest that $10M very wisely…

Recently, JD Drew had a seven RBI game to power the Red Sox to a win. Drew was also hot for the first two weeks of the season. In the time between mid-April and early June, he was useless; his batting average for May was .171. Oh, and he was injured too as if that was a surprise. This is the guy that the Red Sox front office thought was worth $70M. I know that those folks who run the Red Sox live in a new paradigm where they can infer intrinsic value in players that is not discernable by mere mortals. But I will still have to be convinced that signing JD Drew for $70M was a worthwhile activity. Remember, this $70M man has been sharing time in the lineup with Willy Mo Pena and I don’t know too many folks who think that Willy Mo Pena is a $70M asset to any baseball team.

I see where the Duke lacrosse players have been granted an extra year of eligibility by the school and by the NCAA as compensation for the season they lost during the legal fiasco of 2006. I don’t have any problem with that nor do I think that such an extension of eligibility is richly deserved by those players. What I do think is sorely lacking are apologies all the way around.

I think the Duke University President and the Duke Faculty Senate should stand up and publicly apologize for their rush to judgment in the matter. They all made some pretty rash statements and issued some draconian edicts last year – - and most of them came to naught. I think an apology would be in order.

I won’t hold my breath until I hear an apology from “The Reverends” – Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. Turns out they were misguided in their remarks and actions too – and that’s being really polite.

Former Durham NC prosecutor, Mike Nifong, won’t be apologizing any time soon since he has to be busy preparing to defend himself in proceedings that could get him disbarred.

AND the entire Duke lacrosse team needs to apologize for their anti-social behaviors on that fateful evening last year and for perpetuating the image of themselves as helpless victims in all of this. Had they not scheduled that drunken party with the added debauchery of hiring a stripper to show up late in the evening, none of this would have happened in the first place. They need to tell the world that they are sorry for consuming so much of the world’s attention on account of their boorish behavior.

Finally, Scott Ostler had this to say recently in the San Francisco Chronicle:

“I don’t condone dogfighting, catfighting, cockfighting or bullfighting, but before it comes out in the papers, I have a confession: I bet heavily on hamster lacrosse.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports…

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