On the John: Shot through the heart

On the John

Shot through the heart

Originally completed April 26, 2010

LeBron James. LeBron James.

ED. NOTE: Game 4 of the Cavaliers-Bulls series left Mr. Silverstein confused and agitated. He contacted us last night through an “emotional interpreter” who told us that the writer was unable to produce or file any copy. After much coaxing and some early-morning deal-making, Mr. Silverstein released the following column.

I am out of new ways to describe LeBron James. Yesterday’s half-court jumper was a basketball act I’d never considered realistic. I have never been more demoralized or impressed by a third quarter jump shot. Just an absolute nightmare of an amazing J.

I repeated these statements endlessly from the fourth quarter onward. Spoke with dozens of fellow basketball enthusiasts. Almost everyone was in agreement: this man is playing a different game than the rest of the league.

Combined with his buzzer-beating deuce to end the half, this shot seemed to power James like a video game. It was the Star to his Mario, the “He’s on Fire!” to his NBA Jam Scottie Pippen… once that shot fell, the only thing missing from James’s easy-does-it fourth quarter was a pulsing glow and a Power Meter on the side of the screen with the red bar all the way up and the words DO NOT ATTEMPT TO STOP flashing and blinking in bright neon.

Seriously: that was one helluvan encore performance. It was like a baseball curtain call, only instead of waving his hat to the crowd from the dugout’s top step, Mutant Captain James was given a few more AB’s with batting practice pitches just so he could smoke a few more home runs onto Waveland. Yes. And it counts.

To recap: he entered with 9:25 remaining in the game after the Bulls had made a cute go of it, cutting the lead from 23 to 19. Rebound LeBron. Assist LeBron. Three more treys (one straight-on banker), a couple more rebounds. Back to the bench for good at 4:58. 113-88 Cavs. Thanks for playing.

At the start of the series, I was excited to watch my Bulls battle James and the Cavs. Now I am ready for peace. My time watching LeBron since his rookie year has been relatively low – relative, that is, to the frequency of his amazing feats. Every All-Star game, a featured Sunday tip here or there, and I try to catch as many showdowns with Kobe, Wade, or Melo, etc.

Before this week, the most extended stretch of LeBron I ever watched was back in August of 2008 during the eight Olympic games. James was remarkable: other than being uncharacteristically abysmal from the line (11 of 24), he was second on Team USA in scoring and assists, third in boards, and tops in blocks and steals.

I wanted to write more about Noah's 21-20, but LeBron sucked the space right out of the column.

The rest is history, yes? Those Olympics kicked off these mind-numbing soon-to-be back-to-back MVP seasons, and now here we are four games into a hypothetically seven game series and I am spent.

I now understand what opposing fans went through with Jordan. I get it now. I get why Steve Smith referred to a week of guarding Jordan as “hell,” why fans of the Knicks, Pacers, Heat, and Jazz did not enjoy The Jordan Years.

I understand why friends from other cities did not enjoy speaking with me from April to June, and why Ewing, Barkley, and Malone always looked just a touch deflated when Jordan was announced and the game was soon to start.

I understand why opposing fans just wanted Jordan to go away. For good. Forever. It’s easy to be a Bulls fan and argue: “But I am also enjoying this OBJECTIVELY as a Basketball Fan, and you should too.”

Which is kind of like telling a friend who has not been laid in years to objectively enjoy the beauty, friendship, and sexual mastery of your own girlfriend.

I understand it all, and James has not even won a ring, let alone six. Please forgive me for any arrogance I may have displayed between 1992 and 1998. I was young and it was wrong.

The Cavs are now the Bulls, and the Bulls are now the Cavs, and that’s the way it is. Derrick Rose is great fun, and Great, and I will have plenty to write about him in the coming years. Joakim Noah can rebound with the best of ‘em, and has wrangled together some nifty low-post moves. He does not use Rodman’s ethereal outlet pass to start the break. Heck no! He brings it up himself, with Rose and Kirk and Deng on his wings, crazy eyes straight ahead as he dribbles.

And help is coming… help is coming…

So what now? Had Game 4 been close, LeBron’s triple-dub may have been 50-20-15 instead of the pedestrian 37-12-11 he posted. He is better than Jordan, no question, but not yet Greater. As his teammate and Aristotle-admirer Shaquille O’Neal can remind him, “We are what we repeatedly do.” Upcoming series against Boston, Orlando, and the Lakers will pose more challenges than this warm-up act with our beloved Bulls. James will need to embrace his total greatness to capture Ring #1…

And yet no roster on Earth possesses the player who can defend him, especially not when Jamison is at full All-Star status and those shooters are shooting with fearless grace and efficiency.

Yep...what we're all thinking...

Game 5 will be here tomorrow, whether we like it or not. These were the games when Jordan sniffed death. The Bulls impaled opponents, and His Airness made it known who held the sword…

I have written more this morning than I could have imagined, and will now stop. The sun is shining in Los Angeles, and thank goodness, because LeBron is playing basketball tomorrow and I need to rest. God save us.

Copyright 2010, jm silverstein

ONE FINAL NOTE: So yes, LeBron has dragged another 800+ words from me. I really did not think I could or would produce, and so I contacted a number of fellow Bulls fans/ professional basketball junkies to share their thoughts. Many were still recovering – when I reached them and asked for a few words on LeBron and his ridiculous shot, they muttered something about “stop, please stop” and hung up without comment.

But a few were conscious enough to share, which I appreciate. I will now include them in the order that they arrived, along with pictures of glorious moments in Chicago sports history, lest we get too down:

AJB – lifelong Bulls fan

I think what best describes his overall excellence is that I wasn’t surprised in the least bit when the shot went in. I wasn’t even that impressed. He makes the unbelievable believable.

Tim Dohrer – high school principal

Jack,

I ended up at a birthday party for a 3 year old Sunday but luckily found all the dad’s around the flat-screen watching the Bulls game. Just after I sat down, LeBron took the half-court shot to end the third. Honestly, the ball went through the basket so fast that I didn’t think it went in. None of us did. We all stood there waiting in disbelief for the replay. Incredible.

Tim

Jeff Whitaker — high school basketball coach, Bulls fan

When LeBron took the half court shot I did not think of anything. For some reason I thought he had a good chance of making the shot. I am not saying I did not yell after it went in, but I was not surprised. I decided after the shot that he is the best player in the NBA and has been for a while. I am not sure why people are still trying place him in the top 2,3,4,etc…. Anyone who tries to argue that is just plan silly. There are all-stars and then there is LeBron.

What I am going to say does not take away from LeBron’s performance this series.  He is the best player in the NBA and what he has done is amazing. There is nobody in the NBA that could match what he has done.

It is hard to put things in perspective when you are talking about the best player. You have to put him to a higher standard and compare him to the others in the series. I don’t think we can say this is LeBron’s best performance or better than say “a Jordan series.”  LeBron has not been challenged. As much as I love the Bulls, they simply are not that good.

In order to evaluate a LeBron performance, he needs to have someone that is close to his level playing on the other side (say Kobe, Melo, etc…) Eveyone knew he would average a double-double and get at least 30 a game. I think we can start putting it in historical perspective when every game is close and a championship is on the line.

DeAnna “Deals” McLeary – Co-founder of True Star Magazine and lifelong Bulls fan

For a second I thought I was watching EA Sports NBA Live, damn…there goes VIDEO GAME JAMES!

I love the Bulls and consider myself a die hard Bulls fan, but I truly want to see LB dominate and obliterate Kobe. Maybe I am being a little premature.

LeBron is a phenomenon, fun to watch, the Bulls are just outmatched and though I really like Vinny “as a person” his play calls and rotations are suspect. We have no true shooting guard. I would have Hinrich come off the bench and start Flip Murray because we need points. LeBron shut down Deng and his defense was superb.

I could go on, but it hurts too much. All I can do is hope the Bulls don’t jag off the opportunity in the off season to get a great player.

Deals

Christopher Cason – Bulls beat reporter…was at the U.C. covering Game 4

Jack,

I’ve been lucky enough to see LeBron up close this season. That shot is one he can take like it’s a 25-footer. He’s just that strong. When I saw him bringing the ball up, with the time where it was, I was thinking pull up all the way, He was just in a flow and mind-set that no one on his team, or the Bulls, could get into, ever. His teammates just have to ride with him when he’s playing like that.

I’ve seen a lot of basketball throughout my 25 years on Earth and what I’m witnessing with James in this series is an athlete who not only is seeing the game plays ahead of everyone else, but the game has slowed down to a pace for him where he’s putting up these numbers without even looking like he’s playing hard.

Michael Blumberg – lifelong Bulls fan and basketball coach

In a strange way it seemed natural and not surprising, but then I thought about how many other NBA players would have taken the same shot the same way. He is just ridiculous and unparalleled. He has reached the level of Tiger Woods where complete domination is expected. The difference in talent seems to be similar to a dominant college basketball player playing against a high school team.

Sam Vangelovski – lifelong Bulls fan and classic dissenter

James is trash. Durant will own the league by next year.

Eimers McO’Donnell – grumpy retired sports announcer

James is an unlikeable guy in my opinion, so he will never rise to the greatness of MJ.

Jake Bressler – lifelong Bulls fan and annoying realist

I didn’t think James’ half-court shot was all that amazing. Players practice these desperation heaves every day in practice, so it wasn’t that surprising that a specimen like LeBron was able to hit that from about 45 feet out.

LeBron is obviously going to go down as one of the best pure athletes in the league’s history. For some reason though, when I watch him play, I don’t sense the legendary gracefulness of Michael Jordan. And, of course, LeBron can’t even be talked about among the game’s all-time elite until he ices his fingers with a few gold-crusted championship rings.

Brian Neal – lifelong basketball fan

Jack

That shot was something to marvel. It was unreal. I was recovering from a nasty hangover after being out late on Saturday night when I saw the shot. It woke me up like a splash of cold water to the face. Shit was bananas!

Charles Silverstein – Chicago sports fan since 1950

There are a few athletes every decade or so who have spiritual-like powers to create the unnatural ability to channel thoughts and energies into a particular moment. LeBron reminds me of Michael who reminds me of Roger Federer who reminds me of Walter Payton who reminds me of the Greek warrior hero Achilles–the ability to use extreme competitiveness (tinged with anger and power), visualization and out-of-body experience to actually construct a physical act by using the mind. LeBron stood beside himself, saw himself making that jumper and then willed the ball through the hoop.

People like LeBron are able by sheer will power to elevate not only their physical play but the play of those around them. We witnessed Michael do this all the time. LeBron stands in that group of semi-gods stretching back to ancient Greece. Just as the Trojans didn’t stand a chance against the Greek invaders, the Bulls and the other NBA teams won’t be able to stop Cleveland from finally winning an NBA championship. Want to put some money on it?

Father of Davis

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