Covering LeBron Would Be Far Easier If He’d Just Be Like Mike


Jun 13, 2013; San Antonio, TX, USA; Miami Heat small forward LeBron James (6) reacts during the second quarter of game four of the 2013 NBA Finals against the San Antonio Spurs at the AT

LeBron James continues to defy convention at 28 years old.  The 4-time league MVP will arrive at Game 5 in San Antonio on Sunday carrying a reputation as a colossal choke artist carved out of muscle with the gall to play multiple positions, one with the 2012 Finals MVP dangling within his man purse. Having broken several of The 23 Commandments, those etched into various hardwoods during the 2nd millennium by His Airness, this wayward disciple is destined for a life of fame, fortune — and hearing about what’s wrong with him.


That intro was written today, with the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs tied 2-2 in the 2013 NBA Finals. Where plot twists involving the star of America’s highest rated reality series, the Rise and Fall of King James, wiggle as Barry Sanders once did. Starting sideways, backpedaling from bright lights, and right when you’re certain he’ll be thrown for a huge loss, he slithers into the end zone.

What follows was written after Game 2, when Danny Green had yet to become the latest role player en vogue as Finals MVP.


"Here are my NBA Finals MVP power rankings through two games. Tony Parker and Mario Chalmers are tied at one. If Chalmers plays like this for three more games he wins it."

Bill Simmons made this statement during ESPN’s post game coverage of Game 2, after Mario Chalmers pocketed 19 pts, 4 reb, 2 ast, with no steals, blocks or turnovers, as Miami tied the series at home 1-1.

Simmons landed one of the most sought after gigs in all of sports, — as a studio analyst on NBA games alongside Magic Johnson, Jalen Rose and Michael Wilbon (a former sports columnist for the Washington Post now full-time at ESPN whose perceived hoops acumen has trended upward with the popularity of Pardon The Interruption, the show where Wilbon blossomed into celebrity, a far more coveted and lucrative title than writer), — because Simmons writes entertaining and insightful run-on paragraphs about sports, sort of.

Simmons’ bestseller The Book of Basketball is a great read, with amusing and convincing assertions that offer a tasty pop culture appeal, many of which couldn’t be more wrong — but at least they won’t leave you smelling like butter.

Clearly Bill is qualified to make declarative statements in real time about the highest individual honor awarded at the NBA Finals, but just for the hell of it, let’s do the math, and we’ll include the false prophet from Ohio, and Magic’s career digits, just for giggles

2013 NBA Finals averages after two games:

T. Parker:     17pts,  fg 43.8%, 1.5 reb, 5.5 ast, 1 stl, 2.5 tov, .5 blk

Chalmers:   13.5pts, fg 40.9%, 2.5 reb, 2  ast,  .5 stl, .5 tov, zero blk

MC3:            16.8pts, fg 46.5%, 3.4 reb, 2 ast,  .8 stl, .2 tov, zero blk

Akron:          17.5pts, fg 42.4%, 13 reb,  8.5 ast, 1.5 stl, 2 tov, 1.5 blk

Magic:           19.5pts, fg 52%, 7.2 reb,11.2 ast, 1.9 stl, 3.9 tov, .4 blk

Footnot–Simmons always includes clevertaining footnotes, I’m not that clever, please bear with me.

(MC3 isn’t the latest lyricist; Simmons promised Mario the MVP if he duplicated Game 2 three times. After MC3’s ode to 8 Mile in Game 1, where he spit just 8 bars/pts, five games is his best bet. Holy crap, Mario Chalmers just won the 2013 Finals MVP with 17pts, 3rb and 2ast.)

It looks to me that either Magic Johnson wasn’t one of the greatest players to ever lace up Converse and wear kneepads, or this mystery man from Akron is balling out. Then again, I’m not paid to manufacture opinions on TV about a sport I never played.

Bill Simmons (Amy Sussman/Getty Images)

The reason Bill Simmons is eagerly informing you that Chalmers is dusting LeBron during the NBA’s marquee event is because he’s an uber popular writer under the same parent company which owns the NBA Finals TV rights. (Cashing in on his popularity by monetizing the ensuing fame offered by a TV career, a.k.a. “the ESPN blueprint”).

Given time, Simmons may have qualified his indefensible assertion by saying Chalmers’ feats are more unexpected, and therefore gamechangier, or “whenindoubtyoutubelinkhere”.

Except that’s not how MVP voting works.

And the “LeBlock heard round the world”, followed by an assist, a steal, and a monster flush, is all anyone on planet earth will ever remember about Game 2.

(Except Chalmers, who inched one step closer to claiming the Bill Russell Finals MVP trophy from “the Sports Guy” [right after TSG wrestles it away from LBJ and gifts it to MC3.])

Simmons will have you nodding your head, right up until you realize his ability to quote advanced statistics while embellishing his opinions with tenuous analogies is surpassed only by his ability to be wrong .

An MVP case could be made for Tony Parker aided by his Game 1 “Miracle in Miami”, but Chalmers over Lebron (and Magic)?

No soup for Simmons!

The 2013 Finals coverage also includes Mike Breen on play-by-play, Doris Burke on the sidelines (a woman who knows more about basketball than all her cohorts not named Jalen or Magic), with Jeff Van Gundy on color (He’s the short, bald, white guy bearing a striking resemblence to a frowning Shar-Pei, who once gnawed on Alonzo Mourning’s ankle during a playoff game).

Van Gundy uttered the following statement in the fourth quarter of Miami’s 103-84 demolition of San Antonio after Breem brought up a seven-time All-Star his partner was lucky enough to have coached in Houston, one making his NBA Finals debut, at 34.

"But to me, the thing that was undersold about McGrady, was his great passing ability. Like LeBron James could make very, very similar passes."

Van Gundy might say otherwise, but he just used garbage time of the NBA Finals to compare Tracy McGrady with one of the best passers who ever lived – just to throw his former player a bone.

This from a 51-year-old man who demands accountability and professionalism from anyone associated with the sport of basketball. (The 5-foot-9 Van Gundy still holds the FT% record at Division Three juggernaut Nazareth, according to Wikipedia.)

LeBron is (rightfully) included in discussions alongside Bird and Magic, both 6’9”, as one of the best passers his size. McGrady, a freakish athlete and lethal scorer, who doesn’t need anyone fudging his credentials, is listed at 6′ 8″, and it seems Vince Carter’s cousin was also one of the best passers in hoops history, although his gift for giving wasn’t witnessed by those who actually saw him play.

T-Mac was not a black hole, but in 15 NBA seasons he averaged over five assists just five times, and went over six just once. Larry Legend had over 6.0 assists per game eight times, Magic – or “Earvin” as Wilbon likes to call him, making sure the audience knows they’ll be sharing Chai Tea in the green room — did that in every one of his 13 seasons with the Lakers.

LeBron has averaged over 7.0 assists per game six times, with a high of 8.6 apg, failing to crack 6.0 apg only once in his 10 seasons thus far, dropping just 5.9 dimes per contest as a 19-year-old rook.

(“LBJ is such a ballhog”, note to self, JVG)

Perhaps Simmons and Van Gundy deserve more slack. After all, players like LeBron arrive annually, rocking baseball hats with flat brims as they engulf David Stern’s hand, and we should definitely nitpick now and appreciate later, belittling or bending all outliers until they trend towards our puritanical prototype, while shunning every elite player that doesn’t fit into a comfortable narrative where Michael Jordan is both archetype and deity.

A world where when one chooses Not to Be Like Mike, then by definition, one has chosen incorrectly.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I can’t recall any 6-foot-9, 265-pound point guards blessed with Bo Jackson’s Herculean athleticism, and I certainly can’t remember the time Kobe, or Oscar, or Magic, or Bird, or Pistol, or ‘Nique, or Havlicek, or Doc, or Elgin, or Jerry, or His Holiness Michael Jeffrey Jordan, did this…