By Miguel Lloyd
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This week versus the LA Clippers, Lebron James proved that he is a lot more Shaq than he is Kobe.
Between Kobe’s 5 rings and Shaq’s 4 championships, they have been key members of the basketball royalty over the last 15-20 years. One thing that I have expressed over the years, when the Kobe haters and I get into debates, is that Kobe was always option 1. First in his mind, than in the minds of Phil Jackson, the Lakers coaching staff and the rest of the league. Why you ask? Because the main reason that Kobe is so polarizing is because you can’t tell him he is not the best that has ever done it. Not when he was bald headed, wearing number 8 shooting air balls versus the Utah Jazz before they won championships, or now in his 16th year in the league, put together, literally, with tape on a damaged wrist and (God knows what) in his knees. He is simply a “killer” in the vain of athletics and winners.
On the other hand, there is Shaq. Now before you guys start bugging out, pulling up Youtubes of him breaking baskets and catching alley oops, I want you to think about the personality of Shaq. Very jovial, fun-loving Shaq. The pitchman. Superman. Kazaam, and all the other names he’s coined for himself. The difference between Shaq and Kobe? Kobe’s only names he’s known by besides his own are Black Mamba (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_mamba) and some other names that because they are profane, won’t make it on this blog.
Their off the court personalities tend to match their on the court personalities. Although Kobe is probably never the leader in FT percentage on his team, he is always the one who steps to the line to shoot the techs. Why? Because in his mind, there is no one better to handle the pressure. On the the other hand, Shaq’s futility at the free throw line helped coin a phrase (Hack-a-Shaq) that has been adapted to use on many big men, with the inability to come through in the clutch at the line. Just last night, the new age Superman, Dwight Howard, set a new record in most FT’s because he hits less than half of them, night in and night out.
You see, during the great Lakers run that featured Shaq and Kobe (and the Heat run with D. Wade for that matter), the big fella was no good to his team most of the time in the last 6-8 minutes of close games. Why? Because passing him the ball was in most cases a “lost possession” because he couldn’t get past the mental hurdle of standing at the line, with everybody looking at him to sink the big shots. Kobe has never had that problem, whether at the free throw line, or fading away with three 6′ 8″ plus defenders using every inch to block his game winning heroics.
So what does this all have to do with King James? The anointed one? Well since he has come into the league, the pundits have tried to find who Lebron is most like. His game is truly like no other, that I can recall. He’s built like Kevin Willis, is fast and powerful offensively like Karl Marlone, can handle the rock and score, like Jordan and pass like Magic. What he doesn’t have is the heart of a champion. At least he hasn’t shown it yet. If I had to pick a player on the Heat that has shown that, its D. Wade…hands down.
No one with the ability of Lebron James, should defer to anyone unless its an Olympic Dream Team roster. But this isn’t NBA 2k is it? This is real basketball. Although Magic could have only dreamt of having the overall athletic ability of Lebron, King James still hasn’t achieved what Earvin achieved based on a killer instinct that drove him to move from PG to C his rookie year to win his first championship, or channel is inner Kareem with the running hook to beat the Celtics in the eighties.
Yet, in this era of intense media scrutiny that only Jordan could probably relate to, Lebron still seems to fall short. As Lebron has become the pitchman, that sells you everything from shoes, to sodas to insurance he still hasn’t sold himself that he is truly, “the man”. We all know that he has WAY more ability than is needed to make it happen. What he has not exhibited yet is the killer instinct to close the deal. Maybe he needs to sit back and take the lead from someone who has already done it. His teammate, D. Wade. The one with the proven…killer instinct. NBA Champion 2006.
Lebron still has time to win at least one or more championships. Not sure about the 6 to 7…that may be a stretch. He just may need to be Shaq or even Pippen. Putting up big numbers in a support role. Theres no harm in that.
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