LeBron James and the Miami Heat snapped their five-game losing streak on Thursday with a well-deserved win against the Los Angeles Lakers. LeBron presented himself as a jack-of-all-trades on the court. He was focused less on scoring, and more focused on being a shut down defender and facilitating the rest of his team. To the naked eye LeBron got the better of Kobe on Thursday night, but what transpired after the game speaks volumes as to what makes Kobe the tireless competitor that LeBron should strive to be. After losing to the Heat (Lakers' first loss since the All-Star Break), Kobe went to work, he spent over an hour in American Airlines Arena shooting jumpers. While Kobe spends summers honing his skills as a professional competitor, LeBron spends summers shooting commercials and promoting the "LeBron Brand." Lebron's work ethic during the season is not what I question, what baffles me is that LeBron is still a below average shooter and hasn't matured as an offensive player over the past few off-seasons.
What makes Kobe a champion, his tireless work ethic and intense focus, which isn't lost on most of the NBA. While other Lakers were probably trying to get to Prime Italian before it closed or getting a half-dozen bottles at LIV, Kobe was in the gym shooting. The gym is Kobe's sanctuary, that's where he feels at home-- that's where everything makes sense. To spend an hour shooting after such a tough game is unheard of. To the best of my knowledge, this was not even something MJ would do but that's what makes Kobe unique. He knows that talent only takes you so far.
I am not out to criticize LeBron as a person; I just don't see the killer instinct that I used to love about him. I am not a LeBron hater and admit openly that I have never seen a player with more natural God-given ability. His athleticism, speed, and instincts on the court are truly spectacular. That said, LeBron has failed to evolve his game the last couple of seasons by adding elements that should be there. His jump shot has gotten better but imagine how good it would be if he were in a gym all summer taking 1,000 shots a day. Why hasn't the most talented basketball player in the league developed a back-to-the-basket game? I know his counterpart Dwyane Wade is in the gym every summer working to get better and stronger every year. So where exactly is LeBron? LeBron has natural gifts that only come about, at best, once in a generation. What he has lost is his killer instinct.
Look at other players like Derrick Rose who is arguably this years MVP. Derrick Rose spent this summer shooting 1000 three point shots seven days a week in order to improve his outside game. Or Dwight Howard who also didn't spend this summer relaxing from the long season but instead went to Houston and spent hours working with Hakeem Olajuwon on his game. This effort alone makes these two budding superstars better MVP candidates than LeBron this season and it shows in how much their games have improved. Maybe LeBron isn't meant to lead a team the way Kobe leads. Until LeBron fully commits himself to the game of basketball and stops worrying about all this nonsense off the court, then and only then, will his team be of championship caliber. He probably will win a title one day but, unless things change, his legacy in the league is going to be about being the Pippen to Wade's Jordan, Wade carries the team when it really matters. Where is the LeBron who single-handedly brought his team to the NBA finals by beating the Pistons?
More casual fans of the game (such as Heat fans), in general, don't understand the total immersion and commitment that separates Michael and Kobe from LeBron. They would read my piece and probably be confused. LeBron - How many jumpers did you shoot today? Where is your post-up game? Where is your leadership?
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