LeBron James still throws talcum powder in the air before tipoff. I find that offensive. That's an original LeBron gesture, yes, but it was a LeBron-in-Cleveland gesture. Now it's a LeBron-in-Miami gesture? Oh brother.
Does that fool not realize everything has changed? He can't be the same guy he was in Cleveland, because in Cleveland it was enough for LeBron to toss up some powder, put up some numbers, win some games and then be told how great he is. Those days are long gone, the days when he could average 27 points, seven rebounds, seven assists. Surrounded by that joke of a supporting cast, and averaging 27-7-7? In Cleveland, that was enough.
|LeBron James is surrounded by more talent than anyone has ever had in the NBA. Now it's time to produce historic numbers. (AP)|
In Miami, surrounded by his new cast, LeBron James has to average a triple-double. Something along the lines of a 25-10-10 season. I don't much care what the exact numbers are, as long they produce a triple-double. James has to do that this season, or he's an underachiever.
There's a saying, and I believe it's biblical but don't much care if I'm wrong. All I care about is the saying itself, and it goes like this: To whom much is given, much is expected.
So I'm expecting much. You are, too, unless you're a Miami Heat fan. And then all you're expecting is an NBA championship. For you, that would be everything.
For the rest of us, that would be a pretty good start.
The rest of us recognize that the Heat have to win the NBA title, or LeBron is a loser. Can't say it any plainer than that. Leaving your (basically) hometown team in ruins, and leaving it for the biggest conglomeration of free-agent talent in NBA history? Then you better win an NBA title. Otherwise, you failed. You lost. You're a failure. A loser.
Seems clear to me. Parse those words all you want, Heat fans. Just know that we know the truth: Had LeBron gone anywhere but your team, you would be on board with this column.
And the point of this column is not to challenge James to win the 2011 title in Miami. Frankly, that doesn't seem like much of a challenge. Assuming everyone stays healthy, which is no small assumption given the way Wade's hamstring acted up three minutes into the exhibition opener, the Heat have to win an NBA title. My apologies to the Lakers and Magic, either of whom I would love to see win a title over the Heat. Do I hate the Heat? No, but I'm down on LeBron in a way I've never been down on an athlete, non-criminal division. The idea of him winning a title tickles my gag reflex, but it is what it is. What is it? It's a foregone conclusion.
The challenge for James is to do something that hasn't been done, and winning an NBA title has been done. It gets done every year. But nobody has done what LeBron has to do this season, at least nobody in the NBA's modern era: He has to average a triple-double.
Only one player has done it, and he did it just once. That was Oscar Robertson, and that was way back in 1961-62 when the NBA had nine teams and global integration hadn't started and true racial integration hadn't been completed. The world has changed since then. The NBA is bigger, but not in a watered-down way. The NBA is bigger in a bigger-is-better way, which is why nobody has averaged a triple-double in almost 50 years.
But to whom much is given, much is expected. And LeBron James, with his career scoring average of 27.8 ppg and a single-season high of 31.4 ppg in 2005-06, was given -- or gave himself -- a perimeter running mate not seen in the NBA since, well, ever. Don't tell me Jordan and Pippen, because Wade is better than Scottie Pippen. Only four times in his career did Pippen average 20 ppg, and his best season was 22 ppg. Wade has exceeded that six years in a row, with 30.2 ppg in 2009. Pippen rebounded better, but Wade creates better. And Wade scores a lot more.
Along with Wade, James has been given -- or gave himself -- Bosh, who averaged 24 ppg last season. The last time an NBA team had three players, still in their prime, with season-highs of 31.4 ppg, 30.2 ppg and 24 ppg?
It has never happened. Until now.
James is the centerpiece, because he can do anything he wants. He could lead the NBA in rebounding, if he wanted. He could lead the NBA in assists, if he wanted. He already has led the NBA in scoring. James is the most complete player the league has now, possibly ever.
Already, James is the youngest player in NBA history to record a triple-double, doing it 20 days after he turned 20 in 2005. Already, James is seventh in career triple-doubles with 34, and he's only 25 years old. Already, James has averaged 7.9 rebounds in a season, and he has averaged 8.6 assists in a season, and he put up those numbers when the best perimeter teammate he had was Mo Williams (career-best with LeBron: 17.8 ppg in 2009) and the best big man he had was Zydrunas Ilgauskas (career-best with LeBron: 16.9 ppg in 2005).
So what does LeBron do now that he plays alongside Dwyane Wade (30.2 ppg in 2009) and Chris Bosh (24 ppg in 2010), and also plays alongside Mike Miller (18.5 ppg in 2007, 48 percent on 3-pointers in 2010) and Udonis Haslem (12 ppg in 2008)?
He wins an NBA title, for one thing. That's easy.
And he averages a triple-double. That's hard, sure, but then again, this is LeBron James we're talking about. And to whom much is given, well, we expect a whole lot.