“The guy in my opinion is the greatest small forward that’s ever played this game,” Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson said of LeBron James during Wednesday night’s postgame interview. “He’s an incredible basketball player, complete basketball player, with no weaknesses and no flaws.”
Hearing that type of hype heaped on James has seemed few and far between this season. It’s like the universal love fest that started when he won his first title only lasted for a little over a calendar year. Maybe a year and a half if you add the first few months of the season. Then everything turned and criticism began to flood in from all angles.
People started doing their best to treat him like he just uttered “I’m taking my talents to South Beach.” Things were no longer like the last time he opted to test free agency.
This year, the boo-birds are out in every opponent’s arena, internet kids are coining terms like “LeBroning” — for his tendency to flop for a few calls — and referees have even taken to swallowing their whistles then hitting him with technical fouls for running away.
It was as if everyone began to tire of his skill set. The same things that they labeled him great for became boring and routine to them — regardless of him doing things like significantly increasing his field goal percentage for the seventh straight year.
Former NBA coaches, players and media pundits each had a few slick words to toss in the fire as they began to anoint the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Kevin Durant to the throne. And they were more eager to do so with every new LeBron quote.
They scoffed when Brian Windhorst reported that he claimed, “that’s why I should be Defensive Player of the Year,” after guarding all five positions against the Los Angeles Clippers. They followed that up by taking him to task for saying he would win the dunk contest while refusing to enter (partially his fault for the practice showcase).
But the last straw came when James said that he would finish his career on the Mount Rushmore of basketball players. The same Mount Rushmore that coach Jackson said, “you might as well start chipping away at his face.” Yes, one of the top four greatest players of all time.
People wanted to crush him for being confident. It’s confidence that they would have praised Kobe Bryant for instead of taking it for what it was. And what it was is a message to everyone to halt the Durant inauguration because — like the Mamba and his mentor Jay Z — King James is only chasing the ghosts of the greats.
This is a side that we aren’t used to seeing from him. He usually dances around topics. But if speaking out keeps him sinking game-winning threes and averaging near triple-doubles, Miami Heat fans will ride through any outside storms.
Richard Nurse is a columnist for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @blackirishpr or add him to your network on Google.