‘I’m Rooting for LeBron’
Casey explains how LeBron became the game’s best player, as well as the most unselfish.
by Casey Jacobsen
One of the hottest topics of discussion these days is who is better between LeBron and Kobe. During the past two seasons, the King’s improved play at both ends of the court has emphatically eliminated any doubt about who reigns over the League right now.
The ONLY knock against James is he hasn’t won a championship yet, but that isn’t necessarily his fault. Kobe won his first three with Shaq and couldn’t win another until the arrival of Pau Gasol, which just further proves the point that one superstar cannot win a championship by himself. LeBron has played with some talented players in Cleveland, but has yet to be teamed with another superstar. And until that happens, I don’t think he will win a title.
As well as the Cavs have played this season, not many people would give them a chance of beating Kobe in the Finals. If Kobe and the Lakers win another ring this year, the Kobe-LeBron debate will surely heat up again and armed with all those titles, Kobe supporters might be too difficult to hold off. I’m rooting for LeBron. I have always admired how well he balances scoring with getting his teammates involved. Kobe doesn’t do this nearly as well. Kobe is a good passer, but his ego often takes over and he goes into I-am-shooting-this-ball-no-matter-what mode. When I watch LeBron, I get the feeling he could score whenever he feels like it, but for whatever reason he doesn’t. He takes more pride in his passing than any superstar since a guy named Magic.
Watching LeBron play recently on television made me wonder: How does a guy this talented at scoring the ball want to pass?
This past week on a road trip in Germany, I finally understood why.
The recent documentary movie depicting LeBron’s high school career, More Than a Game, was released on DVD and iTunes a few weeks ago, and I heard some good things about it. I downloaded it for the long bus ride to a recent road game and settled in to watch. I highly recommend the movie for those who haven’t seen it. It’s well made, interesting, and gives some important insight to why LeBron plays the way he does. There were two things I learned from the film:
1) LeBron has been a mega-star since the age of 14. I had never really heard of him until he was on Sports Illustrated, but he was already a celebrity in Ohio. He’s so accustomed to pressure and fame that it doesn’t even faze him. He is like a child actor who grows up to become the biggest act in Hollywood as an adult. That’s never happened before because at some point the fame and money becomes too much for the kid and he or she never fully realizes their potential. LeBron more than lived up to his potential. So what made him so different, besides his out-of-this-world athleticism? The answer is in the next point.
2) LeBron played with the same group of kids his entire childhood! He grew up in Akron with his mom and although they were poor, they never moved from that city. Early in his adolescent years, LeBron became friends with the other stars of the film and basketball was their bond. These kids played AAU and high school basketball together. Do you know how rare this is? If you don’t, let me give you an example. I grew up in Los Angeles and played for at least five different AAU teams and had over 50 different teammates during that time. The lesson I learned from my experience was that the only person I could count on was myself. Nobody was going to pass me the ball so I could improve my offensive game. None of my teammates actually cared about winning more than they did their own performance. And I would say my experience was normal. This is the way AAU basketball is 99 percent of the time. It wasn’t that way for LeBron and he’s a better player because of it. He had played with his AAU teammates since he was a boy. They developed a love for each other and because of that, they genuinely cared about winning and doing it together. LeBron had physical characteristics his friends (or anyone else) could only dream about, but he didn’t grow up thinking he could win games all by himself…even though he could. As everything around him changed and his celebrity grew, his friends and teammates remained the same. After I finished the movie, LeBron’s game made more sense to me.
The debate between Kobe and LeBron is fun because both players are amazing at what they do. Kobe is a killer and one of the best clutch players of all time. LeBron is a player who no one has ever seen before. You cannot compare him to anyone. You could say he plays like Magic, but he is so much more athletic than Magic that it makes the argument silly.
The only weapon LeBron-haters have is the fact that he has yet to win a championship. It’s a good point, though, as we ultimately measure the success of athletes with how often they win. That’s why I’ll be rooting for the Cavs during the upcoming Playoffs. LeBron is not only the best player in basketball, he’s also the most unselfish. He plays the way I wish I could play. His teammates are more than his co-workers…they’re his friends. And basketball is More Than A Game to him…it’s his life.
Casey Jacobsen is a former SLAM High School First Team All-American and NCAA First Team All-American. He currently plays for Brose Baskets in Bamberg, Germany.