When I’m Right, I’m Right

Last year around this time, I got involved in an prolonged e-mail debate with two great friends of mine (Kristan Sprague and Shaka King) about LeBron James’s 48-point outburst against the Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals of the NBA playoffs. I didn’t personally witness the Fourth Quarter, but saw the Sportscenter highlights the next morning around 8 a.m. He had his team’s last 25 points, including 29 of their last 30 in the fourth quarter and overtime, when Greatness is conferred on the knaves and neophytes.

Part 1

Anyone who understands me as a person and a fan knows that I am devoted to seeing LeBron James succeed. I feared the hype machine might topple the Man-Monster he is well before he achieved his “Youngest Player To” Awards. I wanted for Jordan karma to cleanse the Cleveland Cavalier franchise in the form of a savior.
I had grown tired of Kobe and Shaq’s sibling-like feuding. Tim Duncan is a model of function that I can respect, but never bear to watch. As much as I resented Jordan for being the maiming villain of the Knicks, I stood in awe of his myth. He was the perfect player once he understood the game, couldn’t be beaten with a bat. LeBron is a Power Forward’s build with a Guard’s handle and mentality. If Kobe is Jordan 3.0, ninja assassin who attacks with precision and intellect, LeBron is a mutated future form made bigger and stronger than his predecessors. He is the new prototype of basketball player. When Lamar Odom and Kevin Garnett came on the scene with their ability to dribble, shoot and defend at 6’11, basketball heads knew something was afoot. Players were being bred differently. A few Darius Mileses later, LeBron arrived to show the world that the genetic bio-engineering experiment had finally reached its zenith. That Game 5 against the Pistons was the beginning of the media tendency to confirm the myth as it happened. Usually, we wait for history to decide (see: George W. Bush) how events will be perceived. However, in the age of constant video-audio inundation, there is no time for pondering, only for predictions and confirmations. Faulty as that may seem, in certain cataclysmic moments, it is true. History writes itself before your eyes.

Part 2: Peep the Detroit fan’s reaction at 9:05 mark even if you speed through it

I understand Kris and Shaka’s skepticism about the media coronation of LeBron James, of course. We scarcely have time to reason when the media is involved. But to deny the media’s lens, its penchant for exaggerating the obvious, would be to miss its one true influence. Once I saw LeBron play for the first five or six times (on television) I knew that there was no trick. The boy King could play and showed more maturity of style than Kobe the Ballhog at his age or than KG the Ferocious at his age. Game Five in 2007 was no different. The following is a series of quotable lines from those e-mails that I fondly recollect as proof that basketball knowledge comes partly from insight, partly from foresight.

After Game 5 made history…

From: Drew

To: Shaka, Kris, Chris (basketball cognoscenti)

Subject: I didn’t even see it

I was on the way to a bday celebration. That’s all I know. I left 1084 with the Cavs down 4 or 5 with 4:14 left in the 4th quarter. By the time I got to the bar, history had been made. I looked up at the screen and they were showing TNT. I heard something about 48 points…double-overtime…shocked…thought maybe I had gotten too drunk already. I watched on…

I heard something about 48 points and a star player scoring the last 25 of his team’s buckets. I heard something about a legend in the making. I heard the tremulous cries of a so-called star out in L.A. who feared the coronation had already begun.

Now, I’m not saying I told you so here…more like this is the inevitable.

In our minds we knew this time would come, when the doubts about his ability to finish games, his “killer” instinct, his drive would seem like fleeting issues in comparison to something mind-boggling he had done. Here it is, gentlemen. And no, he is not the next Jordan. He’s better. He’s younger. He’s going to get his first chip sooner than anyone thinks. That’s fucking epic shit and

…I didn’t even see it. I’m waiting diligently for the next SportsCenter at 8 a.m. to confirm what seems to me like myth right now.

Forever a fan,

From: Kris
To: Shaka, me, Chris
Re: I didn’t even see it
i got too high and comfortable last night and fell asleep in the
beginning of the third. woke up, watched the teaser on sportscenter
saying something bout lebron and playoff immortality. immediately
watched the fourth quarter and the two overtimes this morning. thank
god for DVR’s. but the hyperbole surrounding this game is a little
now i’m not saying the boy lebron ain’t great, not saying he won’t one
day get maybe a couple rings. had a great game, hit some amazing
shots. but where the HELL was the pistons help defense in the fourth
and overtimes? lebron got like three dunks in the last minute and won
the game on a fucking lay up. so lets not crown him yet, cause the
pistons only play when their backs are against the wall. cavs might
get stomped out these next two games, and all last night would be was
a lesson learned. when you watch sportscenter you’ll see the only
player to score on detroit like that recently in the playoffs was
t.mac. dropped 46 and 42 on em, had a 3-1 lead, and STILL lost.
please don;t put media made superstars like dirk and nash in the
conversation with real finishers, real franchise players. how many
game winning shots have you seen steve nash hit? none you say? me
neither. hey, remember that great fourth quarter nash had, brought
his team back from the brink, won the…..oh wait, that never
and there’s also this guy named tim duncan waiting on the winner of
this series. and lebron and his boys got nothing for timmy. no
chance. he already got three rings, three finals mvp’s, two regular
season myp’s, and he’s 31, in the prime of his career.
From: Andrew
To: Shaka, Kris, Chris
Re: I didn’t even see it
you’re right. LBJ and company have nothing for Tim. despite that though, I won’t diminish his performance last night. especially since I missed it and had to watch the highlights. granted McDyess was out but the man just took over. we’ve used that term “takeover” enough and seen Kobe and TMac do it enough to know it when we see it. now Dirk doesn’t have a chip or anything but when he “took over” against the Spurs last year and took it to the cup against Ginobili…everyone was talking about bad D. that ain’t bad D that made that bucket. some players have the ability to reach another level and to do it in a timely manner.
Lebron was taking TOUGH TOUGH jumpers elevating over three Piston defenders…after the trap ANOTHER defender would be coming over and he’d still hit. those two fading jumpers from both wings and the behind-the-back-pullup made Chauncey and those guys look like they were the helpless kids playing against grown-ups in the afterschool program. I will crown him as a playoff performer at the very least. DWade did that and we were all happy acknowledging that he did it but the difference is DWade has NEVER had those kind of expectations. NEVER…with LBJ, it’s like the cloud of presupposed greatness hangs over him and he still delivers. he doesn’t fold like TMac or the now-addled Kobe. he steps up. he learns as series go on (remember last year against the Pistons?). the reason the media is in a frenzy is because it was the game We’d All Been Waiting For. the game to prove that he has the heart and the incredible physical talents to do whatever the fuck he pleases on a basketball court. 25 in a row? 29 of his team’s last 30? if that ain’t reason to celebrate him, I don’t know what is.
From: Shaka
To: Kris, me, Chris
Re: I didn’t even see it
i saw the game live. lebron went nuts. i can’t say i’ve seen anything quite like that in the sense of a guy stroking threes with accuracy and then going to the rack with the kind of speed and power lbj did. he’s not a tank. he’s a fucking plane. it was like a t-mac on fire meets dominique. however, it’s premature to hand lebron multiple rings. flip saunders should be fired. he didn’t have his players trap lbj until midway through the first overtime and they kept going away from it. lbj hit some incredible shots over the double, but they really should have been doubling that man at half court once gibson and gooden fouled out. and that last play lebron scored on was the worst defensive breakdown i’ve ever seen by a professional basketball team. niggas escorted him down the lane. it reminded me of the defensive breakdown the wizards had against lebron last year when he went baseline and got that easy layup to send them home. i’m still not ready to call this series over because this scenario isn’t too different than last year’s. however, if detroit doesn’t double this man from the start of the 4th, there’s a good chance they’ll be watching San An play. and drew, lebron ain’t winning shit till they get him some more personnel. no man is an island in this league. that’s what kobe’s realizing.
From: Andrew
To: Shaka, Kris
Re: I didn’t even see it
not a defensive breakdown…greatness. Flip Saunders sucks but even the Pistons themselves said they couldn’t stop him. they hoped to contain with those doubles and he got transcendent on them. he was on his own planet like Lil Wayne is at times when he raps. the Wiz D last year…now that was porous…but the Pistons last year AND this year wanted to stop him. they did not escort him through the lane…they were tired and he was getting to spots quicker than they could. and your boy Tayshaun? ha! reminds me of when they used to call guys Jordan-stoppers. it puts too much expectation on them and the star always surpasses. TayTay was getting dunked on at will. I wasn’t hearing announcers talk about his “long arms” and “impeccable” defense then. Dunk after sensational dunk came because greatness beat fatigue. they were too tired to contend with superiority. maybe over the course of the series, he has worn them down. no doubt after dropping 48 he’s tired too…but I think he can deal with tired.
From: Shaka
To: me, Kris
you’re blinded by a haze of fandom….i been there before, dog.
that last play was obviously a defensive breakdown. everyone was expecting their teammates to help on the double, that or they were scared to help on the double. either way, lebron had a wide open lane to the basket. bad d. good o, but clearly bad d.
The Cavaliers went on to win the next two games and the series before being swept in the Finals. My predictions then were not based on blind faith nor was it an exercise in empirical inference. I had to combine what I knew about greatness and then somehow assign it to someone who was just realizing his own.

2 Responses to “When I’m Right, I’m Right”

  1. 1 Misanthrope May 14, 2008 at 7:06 pm

    We’ve all played ball before. The lapse that occurs when everyone playing D expects everyone else to step up with the help, only happens at the end of a game for one of two reasons. Everybody on the team all of a sudden gets too tired to want to win for one single second more. Or, everybody feels too intimidated to be the hero themself. Everyone concedes to the other man as better at the same moment. He is the hero and you are not. That may be a dramatization of how the situation ever plays out in the moments of the game, but I know we all know quite well that the moment does occur in every sport from time to time. What may come with Lebron in the future is yet to be seen, but it can’t diminsh the fact that for whatever reason, this was one of those times when a single guy was greater than group of other great competitors trying to impede his success as best they could. Whether the Pistons could have tired harder or not, whether they did, Lebron out-played there squad at the end of an important playoff game. A team that is arguably better and tougher at defense than it is at offensive. The only way you can lose with your best hand is to be out-played. Since when does Tashaun Prince quit? He doesn’t he can just be beaten. Since when don’t the Pistons play tough defense to finish out games? When they can’t do anymore than they already have. When they get circles run around them. When they have to deal with something beyond there regular capabilty.

  2. 2 drewricketts May 14, 2008 at 7:22 pm

    Exactly. Sometimes people get so carried away with refuting hype about a player that they fail to realize this WHOLE shit is hype. It’s entertainment. The Pistons have functional entertainment with their defense that becomes inflated by the hype just like anything else. Tayshaun Prince is not, even on his best day, able to guard an elite player. He tries hard and we commend him. But, his effort gets defeated just like anyone else’s.

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