LeBron’s Title Inspires Andy Murray, Another “Can’t-Win” Star

Britain can’t win the big one. As a whole, the country hasn’t produced a men’s singles winner at its biggest tennis tournament, Wimbledon, since 1936. That pressure of ending the drought on grass gets passed onto every promising player as they come up through the ranks. The latest foil for British tennis fans is Andy Murray, a semifinalist at Wimbledon, and a three-time runner-up in major finals. He’s heard every reference to players who have tried and failed to end the British futility on the All-England Club. So who is he looking at for inspiration instead? LeBron James.

Murray didn’t hold back about his feelings about being the LeBron of tennis — worldwide, not just in the UK — yesterday at Wimbledon. It’s a very imperfect idea that I’ll look at in a second but first, here’s how he positioned himself among pro sports’ “can’t-win” fraternity. Reuters reports:

“LeBron James would be a good example,” said Murray when asked if he could compare his situation to other sportsmen.
“He obviously is a great basketball player. He came very close to winning quite a lot of times.
“Him winning this year I’m sure was massive. For me as a basketball fan it was nice to see.
“I would say for me I guess it’s a similar situation. I’ve been close a lot of times and not quite made it.
“You know, you just have to keep putting myself in the position, and hopefully it will click.”

“I follow basketball a lot and watch a lot of the sports news and stuff,” he said. “There’s a lot of people out there that didn’t want him to win.
“There’s a lot of people that said he would never win. There’s a lot of people who said he never played his best in finals. In the fourth quarter of games he never steps up.
“Then you see how he played the whole of the finals, the whole of the playoffs.
“Sometimes it takes guys a bit longer than others.”

LeBron’s role as an inspiration for the career bridesmaid is a development I never imagined would be a by-product of the Heat’s NBA title. I’m sure he loves that he’s become the guy that the “Hey, if he did it” argument now refers to.

There’s a major difference to remember — Murray is playing in arguably the era of the three best players at once ever together in Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. There isn’t one player in basketball the last eight years who you could say is better physically than James however. The list of players you would put ahead of him overall in that space is maybe only three players long, too — but we all knew it was a group LeBron would pass in an instant when he finally won. It’s a bit different for Murray, who’s 6-4 but is constantly made fun of by commentators for grabbing his back, or his legs, during matches when he’s not playing well. Did LeBron ever shirk when games weren’t going his way? Definitely, but you’d never question the underlying physical gifts.

The when-if? question for Murray leans a lot more toward the if? than LeBron’s ever was. So if he does win a major, he’ll still be on the outside looking in on tennis’ Big Three. A win will make him, whereas with LeBron, his accomplishments could still be taken as amazing without a title (I don’t just say that because we now live in a post-LeBron title world and am looking back with rosy glasses), much like Karl Malone or Charles Barkley.

The difference is Barkley famously declared he was not a role model. LeBron, for those just on the cusp of winning everywhere, apparently is.

What do you think?

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