It is time to figure this guy out for once and for all. There is too much press on the guy to start with and the press can’t be trusted to present a realistic approach. Yeah I’m talking about the Everyday Sports Paparazzi National but the fact is this guy is the Next. The Next Jordan though? I think not. There have been several guys to come along and do what this kid is going to do. He might win some championships and he will most likely score 30,000 career points among other statistical achievements. When the game is on the line he is not the guy you want to rely on shooting the ball or taking free throws. Sounds to me like Shaquille O’Neal or Wilt Chamberlain.
LeBron James is the next Shaquille O’Neal not Michael Jordan. He is the guy that keeps you in the game but will always need someone else to close the game. Shaq needed Kobe and Wade, Wilt needed Jerry West, Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson needed Kareem and Russell had Havlicek and Cousy. They all won titles but none of those guys did it alone. Oscar Robertson took ten years in the shadow of Wilt and Russell before he won a title with a young Kareem in ‘71. LeBron might be taking the same path and although our generation has long since forgotten about the big O he deserves some comparison. Robertson averaged a triple-double his second year in the league while under one assist or rebound short for the other four of his first five in the league.
James has the triple double threat of Oscar Robertson and he is nearly twenty percent better from the charity stripe in the playoffs than Wilt Chamberlain or Shaq. Garnett says he’s six foot thirteen because he doesn’t play like a seven footer and with good reason. He played the wing most of his youth until a late growth spurt put him where he is now. James might be the reverse, the closest we have seen to a center in the body of a wing player. He often uses his size and strength to get to the basket or foul line similar to how Shaq could dominate on the block. He scores effectively at a high percentage which keeps games close.
He doesn’t distribute like Magic and he doesn’t score in the clutch like Jordan or even Kobe for that matter. He hasn’t had to fight to be great like either of those guys either. Magic always had to best Bird and Jordan didn’t make varsity till his junior year in high school. Lebron, on the other hand, was dubbed “The Chosen One” on the cover of Sports Illustrated as a junior at St. Vincent-St. Mary and the next season was the main event in the first ever regular season nationally televised High School basketball game. Thanks again, ESPN.
Shaq went on to win four titles, Wilt won two and Oscar only one. Shaq won his first after his twenty-eighth birthday and LeBron is only twenty-seven. Everyone is in a rush to see a kid take over the league with clutch scoring and they might start watching Kevin Durant instead.
When Magic and Bird came into the league I wonder if the media force fed comparisons of Dr. J and Oscar Robertson or if they were left to play for their own legacy. As for LeBron it might be time we start making fewer comparisons and when we do maybe we look to Shaq even though he’s not a center and let the Next Jordan question go quietly into the night.