The start of the 2017-18 NBA season is hours away! There will be scores of articles previewing teams by win-loss record, roster additions and subtractions and protected win total. There is also a feeling surrounding this season that we’re headed towards the inevitability of a Golden State Warriors championship. Thus, some of the fun is met with a bit of gloom. Cheer up, lover of hoops. Basketball is a sport in which the journey of the season is just as important as its destination in the Finals. Here at TSFJ, we’re going to highlight some things and people the basketball realm can be excited for between now and June.
It is becoming increasingly difficult to write about LeBron James. In one, summarized ideal, he is a amalgamation of unique greatness that we have never seen before, including You Know Who. He’s a living icon who helped transform the landscape of the NBA, and emboldened players in a way that no professional league has experienced. LeBron James didn’t just fulfill his destiny as “The Chosen One.” He surpassed lofty expectations of individual success and walked the path to the throne solely his way. Yes, LeBron James is Michael Jackson in the “Billie Jean” music video. Everything he has touched illuminates, even a franchise as desolate as the Cleveland Cavaliers.
What are we to expect from the man who’s given us everything and more? How does one who reached infinity add to a timeless legacy? How do we marvel at the Colossus of Rhodes when it still can pursue breakaway opponents a hemisphere away and perform the chase-down block?
We celebrate legends in the twilight of their careers. When they lose that proverbial step and their movements slow and teeter towards statuesque, we prepare the farewell tour. LeBron James is still the best player in the world. His trilogy with the Golden State Warriors heightens his timeless place in history. A team with the best regular season record ever chose to recruit and sign the sport’s most gifted assassin because LeBron’s team defeated them four times in seven games. Even with another Finals loss, achieving The Impossible in 2016 exceeds anything anyone else has ever done in an NBA championship series. And he is still the best player in the world.
This will be LeBron’s fifteenth season. As much as we believe the Warriors will win the championship, LeBron is the only mainstay in the Finals each year of this decade. His greatness is to be expected, even as detractors place bloated importance on championship wins. We know LeBron taps into his godlike abilities in the postseason. This means he scales down his might for most of the regular season to prepare for the playoffs. So what could we look for that would make LeBron’s regular season interesting? The answer is one final MVP campaign.
LeBron James is the de facto Most Valuable Player by virtue of his many Finals appearances. Every year, we belabor the point of a MVP candidate needing to be on a championship contending team. Before Russell Westbrook won it last year, the previous 34 winners were on a team that finished in the top three of its conference. Since 2011, there have been more Western Conference teams in the Finals than teams from the East. The conference championship moves with one man, therefore solidifying his value.
However it has been five years since LeBron has won the regular season award. Given the somewhat messy breakup with Kyrie Irving, and reuniting with best friend Dwyane Wade, that combination of scorn and peace of mind may blend LeBron’s rage and serenity that culminates in one of his best individual seasons and a fifth MVP.
LeBron James is the exemplar. We need to enjoy him while he is playing basketball at the cosmic level. Time eventually catches everyone. And even if LeBron leaves with his powers still relatively intact, age will inevitably pin his shot to the glass, too.
Poemer. 8-time Hug Champion. Pick&Roll Enthusiast. Guardian of Logic and Tact. Apocalypse’s good Brother. Collector of muted souls for Mt. Filtermanjaro.