Whether by design or sheer coincidence, LeBron James has been regularly criticized on this site. It’s something that has become routine ever since his final playoff series in Cleveland and intensified last year following “The Decision.” No matter what went wrong, it was LeBron’s fault. You couldn’t get the man’s name out of the headlines in a negative light, even as he was leading the Heat to the Eastern Conference championship before losing to Dirk and the Mavericks in the Finals.
But a funny thing happened this season. The lockout ruled the offseason. Then it was the hand of Stern vetoing a trade to bring Chris Paul to L.A., only to turn around and get the game’s preeminent point guard in Hollywood after all. Suddenly, Lob City was the darling of the NBA, not the three-headed monster of the Miami Heat. If anything, Dwight Howard’s trade requests and impending free agency became the biggest focus of the NBA in Florida. And when people finally got used to the idea of the Clippers as an elite team and tired of talking about Dwight, here comes this crazy kid from Harvard taking Madison Square Garden by storm. The Linsanity ensued, and all the while, there was LeBron and the Miami Heat maiming everyone in their paths, going nearly unnoticed anywhere but South Beach.
Truth be told, people should be paying more attention to what LeBron and company are doing this year than they did in year one. Why? Because LeBron James is having one of the most truly remarkable seasons in NBA history.
Sure, Lin has captured the heart and minds of NBA fans everywhere, Kobe is leading the league in scoring and feuding with management, Durant and Westbrook are leading the pack in the West, Lob City is everything we thought it would be, and this crazy condensed schedule is throwing a monkey wrench in everything. But nothing and no one has been as amazing as LeBron James in this 2011-12 season.
As it stands, LeBron is putting up numbers that the most devout video gamers only dream of doing on their Xboxes or PS3s: 27.9 points, 8.2 rebounds, 6.8 assists, 1.7 steals, 54.8 percent shooting from the field, 39.3 percent from three, 76.7 percent from the line. To put that in perspective, he’s among the league leaders in every one of those categories except free-throw percentage. And he’s doing it all while leading a Heat team that is tied for the best record in the NBA.
No matter how you look at it, LeBron is hands down the MVP of the season thus far, and it’s hard to imagine anyone even having a sliver of a chance at catching him. Right now, he is a nearly flawless basketball player, quite literally capable of doing anything on the court. Not only is he shooting an insane percentage, scoring in buckets, facilitating the offense, rebounding and playing tremendous defense, but he’s doing it with the versatility on both ends of the floor that no one else has. Not Kobe. Not Rose. Not Durant. No one.
Consider this. Not only has LeBron become a better shooter from everywhere on the court, but he went and worked on the one thing people said he didn’t have offensively – his game in the post. Now he’s schooling cats on the block, all while continuing to be a freight train in transition, a one-man fast break, a tremendous passer and a supremely intelligent player. But even more impressive, he’s the real leader on Miami’s vaunted defense, able to guard anyone on the opposition. And I mean anyone. He’s checked everyone from Derrick Rose to Andre Iguodala to Kobe Bryant to, just the other night, handling Dwight Howard in the post. I repeat, LeBron was guarding, and guarding well, Dwight Howard in the paint. That’s some other-worldly shit right there.
And yet, here we are, with every plot line under the sun getting driven into the ground, the most recent being the Tebow-like hysteria of Linsanity. Maybe people just got so tired of LeBron and the Heat last season that they are looking for any excuse to not talk about either one much in 2012. But the longer LeBron keeps this up, the tougher that’s going to be. And for me, you can have your Linsanity. I’ll take LeBron any day.