I concur, LeBron is one of the greatest
Column by Ken Cohen
May 31, 2013 Well, it took some time but LeBron James has made a believer out of me. Not that he's one of the game's best players, but that he might be one of the top five players of all time. This guy is an absolute beast everywhere on the floor. Whether he's flying down the lane and able to shift in either direction to get to the hoop; or posting up and just overwhelming anyone in his way; or coming off a screen and firing a perfect one-handed bounce pass to the roller; or chasing down an opponent on a breakaway and blocking his shot from behind; or clamping down on the other team's best player.
And last year he received his license to be considered great a ring. But to really be mentioned with the game's elite Jordan, Johnson, Jabbar, Bryant, Bird you have to deliver in the clutch. I think that's what was holding me back from anointing James as a true King. In his Cleveland days, and even his first year in Miami, he seemed to shy away from the big moment or failed when he did have the opportunity to make the game-winning play.
Part of the problem, I believe, was he still didn't have complete confidence in his shot. Opposing teams sensed that and tempted him to take the 15 or 20-foot jumper. Without that air of certainty, James missed more than he made in those key situations.
But that's all changed in the last two years. He has become an excellent shooter from any range. He can step back and hit the three or pull up and drain the mid-range jumper. With his uncanny ability to drive to the basket, now possessing a reliable outside shot has made James unstoppable. And he's no longer afraid to take the shot or have the ball at crunch time. While he made two bad passes against the Pacers in Game 2 in the final minute of play, his late-game resume the last two years rivals that of anyone before him, including Jordan and Bryant. He has made enormous play after enormous play to either win games outright or bail Miami out of dire situations.
In fact, I think his biggest contribution to the Heat has been as a stopper. Just when another team is making a run and threatening to take control of a game, James makes the big three, comes up with the key steal, makes the thunderous dunk or times an unbelievable block. There is no more valuable role a player can have than to keep his team in a game. That's what truly separates the greatest players from the great players. It's like Tiger Woods making the impossible up-and-down par. He will always say that those pars are the key to his rounds and many of his wins.
James has also won me over with his attitude. While I (and many others) didn't care for the whole spectacle surrounding his signing with Miami, he has apparently been humbled by that experience. He is respectful of other players, rarely whines or complains about a referee's call and seems to zone in on playing hard. I can only think that UCLA legendary coach John Wooden would have loved James on his team. While we may think of James as flashy with his roundhouse dunks, he really is a lunch-bucket type of player. He brings it every night and would have no problem taking zero shots and scoring zero points if in some way he helped the team win.
It's not easy to convert me to liking an athlete especially if they are smug or have an attitude in some way. James' certainly was on the wrong path after he ditched Cleveland and "took his talents" to Miami. But he is definitely a changed man since that double dribble and realizes that greatness is earned, not bestowed.
Ken Cohen brings 30 years of publishing experience, many covering sports and working for sports companies, His column, “Further Review” will appear every Friday.