Feeling bad for LeBron


You almost feel bad for LeBron James.


As he sits up at the podium at the NBA Finals, rows of media in front of him, he’s asked every question about every introspective thought he could possibly have, his game being dissected and analyzed like a dinosaur fossil or a crime scene–by everyone even remotely familiar with basketball.

He’s bewildered. Beleaguered. And, probably–about to be beaten. For a fifth time in the NBA Finals. With the weight of all the Jordan comparisons and the “Chosen One” title still quite literally on his back.

When LeBron started this journey in Cleveland–with an understated (compared to ‘The Decision’) essay in Sports Illustrated, it seemed like a championship was an eventuality. Not that LeBron himself necessarily felt that way.

LeBron's teammates have let him down in these NBA Finals. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

LeBron’s teammates have let him down in these NBA Finals. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

“I’m not promising a championship,” he said in that letter. “I know how hard that is to deliver. We’re not ready right now. No way.”

“Of course, I want to win next year, but I’m realistic. It will be a long process, much longer than it was in 2010. My patience will get tested. I know that.”

But now, two summers removed from that letter, things feel different. The patience is gone. Last year, the Cavs weren’t healthy when they took on the Warriors. This year, they were at full strength (until Kevin Love’s injury), and things are worse.

If these Cavs aren’t good enough to win an NBA title, will they ever be?

LeBron gave himself time in that letter, but now time feels like it’s running short. This is James’ 13th year in the league, and he’s three years removed from his last MVP award. This season, another dude just won the award in the first unanimous vote in league history.

James’ numbers look virtually the same across the board, but his scoring average (25.3 ppg) is the lowest it’s been since his rookie year. His assists numbers are down, as is, tellingly, his three-point percentage (.309). He may not be on the decline yet, but it’s coming.

It would be easy for LeBron to get frustrated. His new running mates–Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love–look scared. His team is falling apart on defense, and this era looks like it’s becoming a sad redux of his first stint in Cleveland. He needs a lot more help.

LeBron admitted that this was never going to be easy.

But he also never saw the Warriors coming.

This team, which rose from eternal Western Conference doormat to the best team we’ve seen since the ’96 Bulls, has captivated the imagination of basketball fans everywhere, and legitimately taken over the NBA.

They’re dominating this series to the point that Andre Iguodala is flirting with girls in the stands, and Steph Curry is pretending to play video games on the bench with time ticking down in the fourth quarter.

There’s almost no doubt now–the NBA has become Steph Curry’s league. LeBron is an afterthought.

There’s no way the “Chosen One” envisioned his career turning out like this.

It almost makes you feel bad for him.


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