The 5 Ways LeBron James Becomes The Best Ever

By: 09.28.12
LeBron James

LeBron James (photo. David Alvarez)

In the new issue of Dime Magazine, we took a look at the best – and worst – the game has offered since the turn of the century. From the players to jerseys to sneakers to teams to even trends, you can relive the past 12 years by scooping up the new issue currently on newsstands nationwide. In those pages, you’ll find the following feature…

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It always comes back to Michael Jordan when you discuss LeBron James. Only recently did it become fair to compare the two because only within the last calendar year did LeBron become a true monster. Only one other player has snapped up the regular season MVP, NBA Finals MVP, NBA championship and Olympic title in the same year. Yes, his name was Jordan. Once LeBron got out of his house and out of his post-Finals funk in the summer of 2011, once he opened the shades and realized he was still the best player on the planet, he led Miami accordingly. Chapter three (“Champion”) is beginning for LeBron. MJ is still the standard we hold the all-time greats to, but LeBron is the rule for the current NBA landscape. At what point will those arcs converge?

Here’s an open letter to LeBron on how he can become the best player ever.

5. ACCEPT THE BLACK HAT
What was the chorus of your post-title speech? The last two years weren’t fun. In vain, you tried to please your way out of that casting, from an apology ad asking what you should do, to talking about Cleveland like you would somehow consider playing there again. Stop. Own the reality. You will be vilified by a majority of very vocal fans. Nothing is more fun than shutting doubters up with your play, and it’s smart business to cut away what generates losses: losing confidence. The championship was great — I think we all saw you smile for the first time in months in those closing seconds — but just because you won your first at a younger age than MJ did doesn’t mean you can expect this league to be pro-LeBron overnight. Society’s doubts shift. Can he win two? Three? So shift with it from being the people-pleaser to a one-track mind unbothered by the perception of your game.

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Kobe Bryant, LeBron James

Kobe Bryant, LeBron James (photo. Nike Basketball)

4. GO TO THE POST WHEN YOU’RE FEELING IT
It might seem a stupid request, but LeBron, don’t take the heat-check three. When you’re on, and you’re on a lot, duck into the post and show your opponents you won’t take the easy way out with a triple (Plus, it will make your defender work for an extra possession.). We saw how the post game made you unstoppable in last year’s playoffs.

After your low-post training with Hakeem Olajuwon, you said it was nice to know you could get a high-percentage shot now because of that improved footwork. So, when you feel like you can do anything, work on what’s least comfortable. As the best passing forward in the NBA, part of your arsenal is dropping dimes out of double teams. Instead, try bullying through two guys even if it means a few turnovers. By forcing the issue, teams must respect both your passing and head-down aggression — effectively choosing between Jekyll and Hyde and gambling when to leave one defender on you in the post. In time it will all be lethally balanced.

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LeBron James

3. DRIVE, DRIVE, DRIVE
If you can boost your three-point shooting by even a couple percentage points, you’ve completed your range-defying game. Seriously, at 36 percent last season, people can still gamble on you from that distance, whereas the worst you shoot inside the arc is 39 percent (the 16-23 foot range). Here’s what can make all of what we just wrote irrelevant: If you drive the ball like you did from Game 6 in Boston on through the Finals, you’re untouchable. It’s one thing to believe you can get to the rim every time; it’s something even more rare to actually be able to. Your shooting percentages both at the rim and from 3-to-9 feet last season were 47 percent, tying or just below your best marks there in the last five seasons. While you can shoot those marks consistently, the show of force you put on during Miami’s final six playoffs games last season was both wholly different and even more effective. In those games, you took to heart what everyone says: No one, consistently, can stop a 6-9, 260-pound forward with point guard speed and center strength driving to the rim.

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LeBron James

2. TAKE OVER THE TEAM
Miami won a title because you, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh kept the team’s chemistry from blowing up. That pressure is combustive, so congratulations. It was a feat of chemistry even Walter White would have applauded. However, it’s no secret the ring came because you turned Miami from Wade’s team to yours halfway through the second-round series against Indiana. Maybe your teammates already see you as the alpha dog first option and we’re just catching up to Wade riding shotgun, but if the question is asked, go ahead and acknowledge you’re the man in Miami now. Did MJ ever let the Bulls be led by anyone but him? Nope. Admitting it means the criticism and praise gets funneled to you first. Dating back to your time in Cleveland, you were reluctant to accept full blame. Then, in Miami’s first year, it was a honeymoon. Shoulder the responsibility – the hottest crucibles forge the hardest products.

[Related: Wade, LeBron and the Shifting Superstar Archetype]

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