HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — We tossed the idea around here last week, much to the chagrin of those who absolutely adore LeBron James and those who still aren’t convinced he’s worth all the fuss.
Where can the four-time MVP improve his game at this stage of his stellar career? If there is room for the Miami Heat’s back-to-back Finals MVP’s game to continue to grow, where will that growth take place?
LeBron is already an all-court force of nature, capable of impacting games the way no one else in the league can (that includes you Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and anyone else that wants in on the discussion). As great as some of these other start might be in one aspect of the game or another, not a one of them can match LeBron’s abilities in all disciplines.
That’s what makes the prospect of Heat coach Erik Spoelstra‘s Media Day challenge to James one of the most intriguing sidelights of this upcoming season.
“This year, it would be great to see him be acknowledged for the defensive work that he does,” Spoelstra said, planting the seed while at the same time saying that’s exactly what he wasn’t trying to do. “There’s no one else in the league that can do what he does. He’s been banging on that door, getting close. I don’t want it to be a campaign. It has to be earned. But he has that type of potential to be Defensive Player of the Year.”
Not since Michael Jordan has the best player in the league been this proficient on both ends of the floor. And Jordan, you could argue, played both sides as well as anyone who has ever laced up a pair of sneakers in a game in the NBA or anywhere else. James has the potential to do the same and has shown flashes of it throughout his career, particularly in the past three seasons.
Who could forget his defensive effort in The Finals in June? San Antonio Spurs big men Tiago Splitter and Tim Duncan got a first hand taste of what he can do around the basket. For a man his size, his ability to defend on the perimeter is nothing short of ridiculous.
Can you imagine if LeBron was allowed to channel the majority of his energy every night into just playing shut down defense? I’m convinced he could challenge for a spot among the top 10 defensive specialists the league has seen. He’s that good, that talented and would certainly be that accomplished, if he were allowed to focus like that.
Did LeBron improve? I think it’s insulting to suggest otherwise. Since he’s been in Miami (and before) he’s come back year after year with new wrinkles to his game that require meticulous attention to detail in the gym during the offseason.
Capturing the ultimate prize, both team and individual glory, has not sapped him of his desire to tweak and improve his arsenal year after painstaking year. That’s a testament to the respect he has for those who have come before him, the folks who set the standard he’s trying to surpass and the mold he’s trying to break.
If LeBron needs any added motivation at this point of his Hall of Fame career, and I’m sure he doesn’t, let Spoelstra’s word ring in his ears night after night this season. And we’ll see if he’s capable of fueling the campaign his coach said he’s trying to avoid … “LeBron James, your 2013-14 Defensive Player of the Year!”