Image Isn’t Everything
And right now, image is all LeBron James has.
by Aaron Vaccariello
Quinn Peterson wrote a great piece this past week about why Kobe Bryant can’t be the greatest. Instead of analyzing his game inside out, Quinn took a different approach by explaining how Kobe’s Urkel attitude has made it tough for people to like him regardless of his accomplishments.
Essentially, in order to be considered the GOAT, you’ve gotta have personality as well-respected as your game. So when your attitude lacks appeal, your game better state its case. That’s why Kobe is on his way to number five, and LeBron is counting down the days until July 1.
In light of SLAM and it’s Kobe-LeBron issue, I felt it was necessary to cover the latter half of this debate by explaining why, as gifted as LeBron James is, he’s held back from being considered truly great. No doubt Bron is a beast. Statistically, dude gets it on in jaw-dropping fashion. Stats are proven to explain many things, but they don’t explain why after seven seasons of pro-ball, LeBron James can’t seem to really breakthrough. Is it his drive? His willingness to compete? His teammates? Everything is in question now, right down to his motives.
There are a handful of champions, past and present, seen as top-notch individuals off the court. Guys like them won because they led by example, and in some way it feels like LeBron hasn’t set that example yet. As exceptional as he performs in the regular season, a shadow appears to cast over his efforts when the “real season” begins. Some players get exploited when they enter the Playoffs. Others thrive. And in this case, LeBron James’ gets exploited.
Instead of being more engaged in the spirit of competition, he’s found himself dancing, posing, and rapping his way right out of title contention each year. He wants everyone to know he’s sure about one thing; I am MVP and I have a return trip to the Playoffs. He just didn’t expect to come back so soon. Hey, at least he gets to spend more time with Drake. You could have a hundred excuses why he’s not in the Finals right now, but whatever it is, it’s becoming a question of seriousness. If you were the leader of a franchise starving for Playoff success, wouldn’t you want to get as serious as this?
It’s understood that LBJ is a big kid at heart and his antics are in the name of fun, but this is why the haters hate. He gives people reasons to take him lightly. To be named one of the greatest you’ve got to care more about the game than anything else, and unfortunately, LeBron may have other priorities. His image is at stake, and like you already know, image is everything. Think about it though. Does image really reign supreme in the NBA? Maybe it does in this Internet age more than in the past but truth is, when it’s all said and done, people will look at what you have accomplished and how?
LeBron James will likely shatter records in his career. No doubt about that. But beyond personal feats lingers a question mark. Instead of people speculating how many rings James might end up with, some emphasize the when more than anything.
Like Quinn stated, Kobe is uncool. But is that the worst thing in the game of basketball? It seems like wearing the “cool cap” results in problems most of the time. There’s no pressure on the humble type or the modest ones. Think about it. How far can you really get with pre-determined hype? Pretty damn far. That is, if you deserve it. If you don’t deserve it, welcome to your demise.
LBJ’s future is fragile right now, like carrying a pane of glass across a busy street. He’s still trying to make his impression entirely felt. LeBron’s failed to make any noise in the Playoffs throughout his career other than a memorable Game 5 against the Pistons in 2007 where he scored 25 straight points in the fourth quarter. Yes he went to the Finals once, but it was ugly. When Bron turns it on like he did against the Pistons, he’s the revolutionary player every basketball fan can appreciate. That’s not the case though.
We can’t fully appreciate a player who is advertised to do more than he’s able to do. The media blew his image up. He’s marketed like he’s already won rings. It’s silly because he’s won nothing of true importance. That’s the reality of it. And now, with his Cavs failing to reach the ECF, he’s catching fire in a bad way.
How about this question: Would you rather have an unconditional winner ready to bare it all, or a player who everybody thinks should win in a big way, but can’t produce those results?
There are just as many LeBron haters out there as Kobe haters, and to me, the Bron hate is more understandable than that directed at No. 24. Plenty of you may not like Kobe’s attitude, but you can’t argue about what he’s done for the game. For those who dislike LeBron, you have valid reasons to despise. He has a lot going against him and here’s why.
He’s been fabricated and invested in before he ever set foot in the NBA. Nike wanted to create an image out of him. So did the NBA. Expectations were sky high. There was no way in hell he’d disappoint. Averaging nearly 21, 6, 5 in his first season, ROY was a sure thing. No one expected anything from him except to make history. Hell, he’s been doing it all this time.
But here’s the kicker: Many of us thought he’d be on top of the League by now with rings on his fingers, sitting pretty on the throne that was created for him years ago. Some may argue he is– but he isn’t.
This is still Kobe’s League. As long as Mamba is making Finals appearances, hanging banners and pissing everybody off with his so-called lame-ass attitude, LBJ will have to continue to convince everybody his hype is for real. That’s what image has done to LeBron James. Picture he didn’t have the hype to begin with. If he didn’t, he would be taking all the necessary steps to becoming a champion. We’d all be saying, “he’s excellent, but give him some time, he’s not ready yet,” or “sometimes you gotta lose to win.”
No one says things like that when talking about the two-time MVP. Know why? Because we’re all groomed to believe he should be a champ every year. That’s the problem. So until he gets a ring, image is all he’s got. And like we know now, it isn’t everything.