You’re So Boring, LeBron James
“I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days, before you’ve actually left them” – Andrew Bernard, The Office
All good things come to an end. The Office. AIM messenger. Those cool KRZR flip-phones that seemed so dope at the time. The same is the case for Hall-of-Fame athletic careers.
Every elite NBA player hits that year where they begin rolling down the inevitable hill that is their career at a speed far too fast to alter. That hill is steep for some players like Kobe Bryant, while very gradual for others like Tim Duncan. But for 32-year-old LeBron James, the hill seems to be a never-ending ascent where it looks like you are reaching the top, only to find another incline awaiting.
This was LeBron’s 14th season in the NBA, and it may have also been his best yet. The 13-time All-Star has never averaged 25 points, eight assists, and eight rebounds in a season before this year. His 8.7 assists and 8.6 rebounds in 2016-17 are the highest averages in his career, and he has never hit as many three-pointers (1.7 per game) as accurately (36.3%) as he did this year.
Somehow, this performance has been overlooked. The triple-double craze of Russell Westbrook and the silky playmaking of James Harden has completely overshadowed LeBrons’ ridiculous numbers, and I actually get it. LeBron has literally been doing this stuff for over a decade, while Brodie and the Beard are relatively new to the world of NBA domination. It’s new. It’s different. It’s electrifying. And it’s coming from people not named LeBron James.
And that’s the thing. LeBron James is boring now, not because he can’t throw down monster slams or zip fancy passes because he can still do all of that. He is still an absolute thrill to witness. Rather, he is boring because he is the same old dominant player that everyone is accustomed to. He is expected to play at a high level, so a crazy stat line for King James is just another night in the office. It is this that has caused way too many people to take him for granted.
It’s not just the consistent individual stats or in-game dominance that has gotten boring. It’s much more than that. James’ constant success is unprecedented in any sports realm to the point where no one else in the Eastern Conference really has a chance. He has been to the NBA Finals in six straight years, and that could very well become seven in a few weeks. No other player can say that since Bill Russell’s 1957-1966 Celtics. Oh, well actually, one other player can. The OG James, James Jones, has been by LeBron’s side every year so technically he gets in the history books too.
Going back to Bill Russell and the 1960s Celtics dynasty, though, that shouldn’t even really count. There were only nine teams in the league at the time and the Celtics only had to be better than three of them to make it to the Finals. And, as most people can agree, the competition level for Russell was just dumb back then.
So if you exclude that, LeBron has done something no other NBA team – nay, any franchise in any sport – has ever done:
In football, four future NFL Hall-of-Famers, including Jim Kelly and Thurman Thomas, led the Buffalo Bills to four straight Super Bowls from 1990-1993. They couldn’t manage to capture a single ring.
For baseball, the Yankees made it to the World Series in five straight years in 1949-53, and then again in 1960-64. They took home the title every year from 1949-53 thanks to a stacked team consisting of Joe DiMaggio for the first two World Series and Mickey Mantle for the last three, Yogi Berra, Phil Rizzuto, and more.
And then in basketball, excluding the 10 straight Finals appearances by the Celtics from 1957-1966, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson have the most consecutive trips to the NBA Finals. They both led the Lakers and Celtics to four straight appearances during the 1980s.
So yea, no other team – let alone individual player – has done what LeBron has (again, excluding the 1960’s Celtics). Unlike the 1990-93 Bills, 1949-53 Yankees, and 1960s Celtics, LeBron has carried two different franchises with him. He had an impressive supporting cast in Miami and has really good talent next to him in Clevland, but you can’t construct a possible argument to say that LeBron wasn’t the most important guy every season. No matter where he is, he is winning.
This year looks to be the same.
Did you know that LeBron has won 20 straight first-round playoff games? That means he has swept his last four straight first-round series and is on the verge of making it five straight. Come on, now, that’s nuts. His streak was in jeopardy at halftime Thursday night when the Cavs faced a 25-point halftime deficit. But, the King proceeded to put up 41/13/12 and storm back to take a commanding 3-0 lead in the series. The Cavs look as sharp as ever and LeBron seems fully equipped to have his seventh consecutive shot at a ring.
LeBron James has owned the Eastern Conference for seven years now. No matter where he is, who he is playing with, or how good (or bad) the competition against him is, no one can dethrone the Eastern Conference King. And that’s boring as hell! Give someone else a damn chance, would ya!
P.S. Coming from a Celtics fan, you can believe me when I say that there isn’t an ounce of bias here. Just respect. He is still a cry baby, by the way, but dammit is he a talented one.
Photo via Flickr