There’ so much about LeBron James that sets his game apart. Less appreciated than any of his other, more highly visible attributes, though, is LeBron’s intelligence. There’s an argument to be made that no player in the league understands the sweeping intricacies of basketball like James does, a possibility that seems ever likely the closer you get to those closest to him. The King’s coaches and teammates appreciate his preternatural ability to think and remember the game, something David Blatt and the Cleveland Cavaliers have already begun to do.
In an excellent story profiling Cleveland’s new head coach, CBS Sports Ken Berger recounts LeBron instructing teammates of their responsibilities in Blatt’s notoriously detail-oriented offense after a recent Cavs practice.
At the end of the evening practice, Blatt blew his whistle and told the players to clear the court and get off their feet; it was a long day, with many more ahead in this team’s drive for the city of Cleveland’s first major pro sports championship in 50 years. (The NFL’s Browns are the city’s most recent title celebrants, in 1964.)
The coaching staff retreated to their evening meeting, which lasted 30 minutes or so. When they emerged, what they saw was heartening, if not particularly surprising: There was James on the practice floor with four teammates, marching them through the intricacies of Blatt’s offensive system from the perspective of each position, one through five. James had already mastered them all.
Now, this account deserves a grain of salt. James could very well have learned each offensive responsibility of every player on the floor for his team, but he surely hasn’t “mastered” Blatt’s system quite yet. It takes time for individuals and the team as a whole to gain that level of comfort, a reality LeBron realizes considering his oft-repeated mantra that it will take time for the Cavs to completely mesh.
Regardless, that he’s already confident enough in Blatt’s offense to guide teammates through it speaks volumes of James’ smarts. It’s been discussed ad nauseam over the past year and Berger mentions it in his piece, but this lends further credence to the widely-held notion that LeBron is blessed with a photographic memory. No wonder he can recall specific plays from many years past or grasp an entire offense in three days – James learns forever by simple sight while the overwhelming majority of us rely on mnemonic devices to achieve his level of understanding.
The size, speed, strength, and skill is all pertinent for LeBron; he wouldn’t be the player he is without that confluence of traits. But James’ vast cerebral capacity is a contributing factor to his dominance, too, and apparently it’s paying off in Cleveland even sooner than seems possible.
What do you think?
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