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When great players come to mind, we usually think about the heroic moments like Willis Reed limping out on one leg to help win a championship, Magic Johnson filling in for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at center in his rookie year during game seven for a championship win, and Michael Jordan willing the Chicago Bulls to a decisive game five win during the Finals while battling the flu. It’s safe to say that great players rise up to the challenge when presented. What tends to get overlooked is how most if not all great players make their teammates better players in the long run. Would Scottie Pippen have reached his Hall Of Fame status if not for Jordan pushing him or what about Rajon Rondo becoming the player he is if it had not been for Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen instilling confidence in him.
LeBron James (LBJ) is definitely a great player who continues to show his worth. Because of the social media overly publicized scrutiny towards him (which I am not helping), his remarkable greatness is overlooked. In 2007, he took a worthless Cleveland Cavalier team to the NBA Finals in his third season out of high school (or any of the Cavaliers’ teams he was on). Undoubtedly, he’s made every team better as a whole because of his over-powering ability, unselfishness and leadership. The catch in all of this is his greatness has stunted his teammates growth development during his career. How can I say that you ask.
James special talents consist of his passing ability, rebounding, defense, dribbling skills and being able to show up when his team needs him most. All of those attributes are great which might make him the only player to possess all but because of his gifts, teammates tend not to reach their full potential. For instance, Mario Chalmers came into this league with a bright future. He could shoot, very sharp player, and led his team to a National Championship. But once James joined the Miami Heat, all of Chalmers attributes were wasted including that valuable time which is usually when a player’s learning curve start to peak from his 2nd year to his 5th season). But because of King James’ greatness, Chalmers point guard responsibilites became obsolete and wasn’t needed which made Chalmers just a three point shooter. Bosh as well except it was more so later in his career, but his game took a back seat.
Another prime example is Kyrie Irving. Irving who was starting to turn the corner into a great point guard is now basically a second option scorer (still top tier player). Many might say he’s always been a scorer first which can be true but he was entering that precious time where his learning curve was pointing upward. If you don’t agree then look at John Wall and Damian Lillard. Since James is the best distributor on the team and sees the floor the best, it causes him to handle the ball the most. Will Kyrie ever get to where he should be as a point guard, we shall see but I seriously doubt it. We see the difference in Kevin Love as well. Love was a force in the NBA at one point averaging 26 points per game (ppg) and 13.3 rebounds per game (rpg) for the Minnesota Timberwolves and now he is down to 15.9 ppg. and 10.2 rpg. as James’ teammate.
As I stated earlier in the article, this is due to his greatness, not him being selfish. As a coach, you have to dictate your offense to his abilities which are usually better than everyone else’s on the team. You don’t tell a superstar to change the way he plays when he has lead his respective team(s) to the Finals six times (five years in a row and counting). There has never been a player in the NBA where he was better at every facet on his team like King James. So should James altar his game? Absolutely not! It’s inevitable that a player will never be able to see there game develop to it’s full potential but they might be able to accomplish more as a team because of that.
It might have been the best scenario for Andrew Wiggins to be traded just so his game can develop and mature. Now we’ve seen the maturity in his game from his rookie year to now and it shall continue to grow. We saw how Anderson Varejao’s production took a major change when LBJ left Cleveland. Varejao averaged 6.7 ppg. and 6.5 rpg. during the first stint with James. After James left for the four years, he average boosted to 10.6 ppg. and 11.3 rpg. which is a drastic difference. So what is this article saying you ask. We can’t blame James soley for preventing his teammates game from elevating to the next phase just because we’ve seen him carry his squads to the Finals. You just can’t contain his greatness for other players personal stats. So as a player, what would you rather have, a player who can lead you to a Finals and possibly win because of his greatness or have your game grow to it’s fullest potential but never sniff the Finals?