As of 2014, LeBron James is the best basketball player of all time. He’s probably never going to be as good as he was 2 or 3 years ago, but even LeBron at 90% of his former self is better than anyone else – including Michael Jordan. And keep in mind, this is the opinion of a man who fell in love with basketball growing up in the middle of the Jordan era. If anything, I should be completely biased to be a crotchety old man who hates on all these young whipper snappers. But the obvious truth remains, LeBron is a specimen who excels in every facet of the game.
However, despite my respect for LeBron’s talent, I have not always rooted for him to win. After The Decision, I found it really hard not to hate Miami. I am a fan of great basketball, so at times it was fun to watch. But, man did he come across as a massive douchelord. So, when LeBron decided to return to Cleveland, and try to win a title for his hometown, I got excited to get back on the L-train again.
The hype for this game was uniquely massive, especially considering we are talking about a regular season home opener for the Cleveland Cavaliers. If any city ever needed a moral boost, Cleveland would be at the top of the list. America loves great stories of redemption, and the narrative of a superhero coming back to his hometown to simultaneously resurrect both his legacy and the Peoples’ spirits, is undeniably appealing.
Following Terrell Owens’ advice to get my popcorn ready, I did the next best thing and prepared a protein/banana/maca/cacao smoothie to kick back and enjoy during the game. LeBron was playing at home against the Knicks, who just got their asses handed to them, losing by 24 in their home opener to the Bulls the night before this game. So, things looked pretty good for the Cavs, with Vegas reflecting this sentiment to the tune of -12.5 point favorites. There were only two problems no one priced in. First, this was the first time I ever recall seeing LeBron James nervous for anything. He looked tense right from the first possession. He finished the first half 1-9 shooting with 4 turnovers. I wouldn’t say LeBron has a problem with pressure. Lord knows the man has had pressure and intense scrutiny surrounding everything in his life. I mean, if the guy tries to take a piss, the flow characteristics and pressure dynamics of his urine stream are dissected the next morning by AM sports radio. But, I think LeBron thrived in his role as the “bad guy”. In other words, some guys play better angry. LeBron turns into a fucking BEAST when he is showered with boos, and enraged by the shit-talking DeShawn Stevensons of the world. I did not see anything even close to that LeBron tonight.
What I saw was a man who wanted desperately to win, but was attempting to do it as more of a cheerleader or a fan, instead of as a blood-thirsty warrior possessed. He got a bit more involved in the second half, but it was too late. The other factor Vegas forgot about was Mr. Carmelo Anthony a.k.a. “Mr. Malignant”. I call him this because he is the ultimate team cancer. He makes everyone around him worse. If LeBron is Ansel Adams, Carmelo is a duck-face selfie. He is the opposite of what I think basketball should be about. He is shoot first, me first, fuck my teammates, fuck my coach, gimme the money, win or lose – it’s all about my contract/endorsements.
While LeBron is pass first, Championships are everything, team is everything, give back to your community, and well, errr… I guess they are the same when it comes to money and marketing. Carmelo is one of the least fun players to watch I can think of. Which is why it makes perfect sense that the only incentive this guy would ever feel to try hard and play well, would stem from the jealousy and hate he feels for LeBron. And what better way to lash out, than to play the spoiler for LeBron’s homecoming. Keep in mind, Melo has been in James’ shadow ever since he came into the league in the same draft where LeBron went 1st. I imagine Carmelo Anthony’s bedroom has a very Ray Finkle from Ace Ventura sorta vibe going on.
Think I’m way off? Think these two are besties from playing together at the Olympics? I submit to you this evidence : In Melo’s home opener he shot 38% and scored 14 points with 3 assists and 3 turnovers. Tonight, on a back-to-backer away game he shot 53% and scored 25 points with 6 assists and 2 turnovers. Hmmmmm, where did that fire come from?? “LACES OUT!”, perhaps?
As the buzzer sounded, the Cavs trodded back to their locker room while a hushed crowd filtered out, and the game ended up being kind of a bummer. Although, on an optimistic note, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love looked great and I’m sure this will be an exciting team to watch. So congrats to Carmelo and the Knicks for scraping out one of the 14 total wins they will probably end up with this season. Pretty sure I’ll be following the Cavs all season as they head toward their inevitable showdown with the Clippers in the Finals. Should be a drama filled NBA season ahead.