Since the Heat won the NBA Finals, I’ve had this idea brewing around in my head that I’ve kind of been waiting to write about once the dust settled around LeBron and all the fanfare of his first championship. LeBron James is the most athletic specimen basketball has ever seen.
There is just no debating that.
It’s seriously like he’s playing on an eight-foot basket. Even in the NBA, he is a man amongst boys. I remember being in high school at open gym during the summer and I’d be playing with guys who had played at D-1 and D-2 schools like Canisius, Colgate, and Lafayette, and I swear to God I couldn’t believe I was even on the same floor. I remember one night driving home feeling like I wasn’t even the same species as those guys. It was my first real introduction to the difference in speed between the high school and college level, something we always hear athletes talk about especially in basketball and football.
Ask any NBA or NFL rookie what has been their biggest challenge during their first training camp, and automatically the response will be something like, “I’m just trying to adjust to the speed of the game.” What I’m trying to say is that as basketball players, the difference between LeBron James and myself is similar to the difference between a Maybach and a broken roller skate.
Growing up in the 1990’s, I was infatuated with the NBA. I was just a couple of years too young to ever really see Bird or Magic play, but I knew who they were. The seed that turned into the success and growth that the NBA enjoyed during the ‘90s was planted by Bird and Magic in the ‘80s. Coupled with the revolution of cable TV, ESPN, and the exponential growth of the media as a whole, the NBA exploded in popularity. Personally, I was the biggest Shawn Kemp fan in the world. To me he was bigger than a God and I absolutely idolized him. I still think the Reign Man was one of the most ferocious dunkers the game ever saw. And that’s how my generation grew up. The NBA was the shit, and its best players were cultural icons.
These rock star basketball players came in all shapes and sizes. You had guys like Patrick Ewing, Reggie Miller, Hakeem the Dream, Dominique Wilkins, Charles Barkley, the Admiral, and Shaq. There were duos like Isaiah Thomas and Joe Dumars, John Stockton and the Mailman, Larry Johnson and Alonzo Mourning, Tim Hardaway and Chris Webber, and the Glove and my man Kemp.
But while these guys were all superstars in their own right, they all collectively and comfortably fit inside the infinite and everlasting royal shadow of The Greatest Of All Time.
I had the privilege of being a kid at the right moment. I feel bad for kids growing up today because although they all know his name, they will never really appreciate what he actually was. He was something the world had never seen before, nor will it ever see again. He is and forever will always be in a class of his own. He is the one and only. There’s him, and then there’s everybody else, including: Bill Russell, Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, Oscar Robertson, Dave Bing, Earl Monroe, Pistol Pete, Kareem, Dr. J, Magic, Bird, Kobe, and yes, LeBron James.
As we move forward in time, each generation will be more removed from The Greatest Of All Time than the last, though his legacy will always be preserved by what he means to the game of basketball. Now that LeBron has his first ring, there is no telling how many more he will accumulate over the course of the rest of his career. Who knows, maybe it will be not five, not six, not seven. I don’t care how many he wins. He’ll never be the greatest, nor will anyone else. It’s both foolish and mindless to even entertain comparisons like that. I don’t care that LeBron is bigger, faster, stronger…none of that matters, because nothing he ever does will ever even come close to what The Greatest Of All Time did. I just hope that all the kids across the world who will dream of playing basketball in the NBA like I did, have someone in their life to preserve and pass down the legend of the greatest basketball player who ever played the game.
A recent graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, earning his Masters in public relations, Michael Tremiti is a communications intern for RotoExperts and contributing writer for TheXLog.com. Growing up in Syracuse, Mike is a lifelong die-hard fan of the Syracuse Orange and Buffalo Bills. You can contact Mike directly @ Michaeltremiti@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter @@Miketremiti15.