We Are All Witnesses: A Lebron James Appreciation

     In the coming weekend, Lebron James the Cleveland Cavaliers will continue to face the most overwhelming odds in a Finals matchup since Allen Iverson carried a hapless 76ers team to the Finals where they proceeded to get obliterated by Kobe & Shaq's Lakers. This series may not even be close, and on paper it shouldn't be. But as the NBA world's eyes turn to the brightest stage in the sport, the intrigue of Lebron somehow turning his already historically herculean effort this postseason into a downright impossible feat and making this a series tickles the fantasies of unabashedly biased Stans such as myself and the fans of the game itself alike. The fact that Lebron came out of the gates with quite possibly the best Playoff performance of his career by dropping 51 points in a heartbreaking loss only adds fuel to this hypothetical fire.  That is the level of expectation that has been placed on this one man after transforming himself into undeniably one of the top 3 players of all time by every measure humanly possible (I only say that to be nice, he is the GOAT whether you like it or not Jordan fans).

     As the series plays out, there very well may come a time when the analysts, both armchair and professional alike, begin to twist the narrative of what may happen here. They will try to make it out to seem as though any outcome besides the most talented team to ever play this game handedly disposing of a Cavaliers squad, who depends on the likes of the ever underperforming Kevin Love and a 37 year old Kyle Korver as its second and third scoring options, would have been possible with an MJ or Magic at the helm instead of Lebron and use this potential loss as a means to degrade Lebron's legacy. They would, of course, be absolutely wrong as evidenced by more advanced statistics and logical fallacies than I care to delve into, but you can almost feel the detractors' thirst for yet another Lebron Finals defeat building as the series plays out. If even after all this time you still fall into this category of people who blindly and illogically hate one of the highest character, most accomplished athletes of all time, I have nothing to say to you at this point besides that I genuinely feel bad for you.

     My personal feelings on this Finals have surprised me at this point, even after spending most of my conscious existence investing my happiness into the success of one man and experiencing the ups and downs that come with being a ride or die fan. The emotion I feel in this 8th straight Finals in which I get to have extreme vested interest is one that I wish I would hear expressed from the general public as much as I hear them express his supposed faults; I feel appreciative. Not just for this current all-time great postseason tear that will go right alongside any of the greatest single postseason runs in history no matter the outcome, but for everything that has come along with the rollercoaster ride of being a lifelong Lebron James fan.

     A decade ago, Lebron began to show signs that he was fully coming into his own and emerged as one of the greatest talents to ever play the game. Fast forward 10 years of him year in and year out reaffirming his reign at the top of the sport, and it boggles even the most optimistic of us Lebron fans that he may be playing the best basketball he ever has at this very moment. And somehow year after year, he seems to still be getting better while continuing to stack up historic minutes playing alongside less than historic teammates. Fans of every team across the league outside of the few destinations that may actually land him are terrified deep down of what may lie ahead if Lebron decides to once again surround himself with talent closer to his own. The fact that the gap between him and the 2nd best player in the league may be wider (or at least more evident) than it has ever been at any time during this period further emphasizes just how extraordinary the entirety of his career is.

     While the world wonders where he will go next and goes on with its level of under appreciation for what he does on a nightly basis, I find myself appreciating every last impossible chase down block, thunderous dunk, no look pass, and clutch shot at a level at which my younger mind could not. Kobe's sudden Achilles injury, and subsequent retirement, taught me a lesson as a fan that I wish I had realized with enough time to take in more of Kobe's greatness as well; this does not last forever. Everything in this game is fleeting, as much as we may not notice it at the time. As impossible as it seems to think about, there will one day indeed be basketball without Lebron James. For some of us, myself included, nothing about the sport will ever be the same after that. It may be 3 years, 5 years, or by yet another case of Lebron pushing common beliefs in what the human body is capable of, 10 years from now. But someday this will all be over. And I can't help but believe that those of you that truly understand this game and dedicate years of your life staying up on it will someday realize this same lesson after it is too late to appreciate what is right in front of you.

     If you find yourself heading into this Finals rooting against Lebron yet again, I urge you to introspectively examine your reasoning. Whether it is because he decimated your teams throughout his career (I'm looking at you Bulls, Celtics, Raptors, Pacers, and Hawks fans), because he left to Miami the way he did (He did it wrong, admitted it, and made up for it 10 fold, let it go already), or for any other out of context aspect that you may have extrapolated to paint him as a flawed human being (even though MJ's extremely flawed character is not called into question), realize how foolish it is to allow those petty points to prevent you from appreciating a level of individual greatness that puts on full display exactly why we love this sport so much. Instead of going out of your way to hate one of the most likeable superstars the sports world has ever seen, take in the transcendent performance that is unfolding right in front of you.  No matter the results of this series against 2 TEAMS, we are watching as near to perfect individual performances as have ever been played in any sport on a nightly basis.  You may never Witness anything like this again.  

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