The once and future
I'm not gonna lie, that was hard to watch. I generally abstain from any kind of rooting or partisan fandom that does not serve the interest of complete and total NBA awesomeness, i.e. it is virtually impossible for me to ever want to see LeBron "fail." This also explains why I would rather see a shoot-out than stomach a cripplingly defended star. But for the last two years, when Playoff Seasons comes 'round I instantly transform into a Wizards fan. It's not even in a rah-rah, chest-thump thing—it pains me personally to watch one of my favorite public figures made the fool, especially when he's so perennially slept-on (priceless Hubie: "Jamison is kind of unknown, since Arenas gets all the publicity.") The only comfort I'm getting here is remembering what a madhouse the series with the Bulls was, right down to Arenas completely tanking in the first game. I seem to remember writing at the time that "this is the most complex playoff coming out party for an athlete i've ever seen." If there's one thing we've learned about Arenas, it's that none of the usual strategic or psychological cliches apply, and the coffin is far from shut.
LeBron, though, is immanence itself, thoroughly unswayable by anything the world might throw at him. Yes, I know the Wizards are biologically incapable of playing defense, and James may not always opt to dominate the way he did in the first half. Unlike Wade and Amare, though—the other two most chronically unstoppable athletes in the game—he doesn't rely on a set repertoire of moves. When Kobe or AI are on, it's the same sort mesmerizing, out-of-thin-air creativity. But with those two, it's a matter of finding their rhythm, often through trial and error, and they often look like it's taking a superhuman effort to pull it off. LeBron, though, has no limits, speaks like a man inventing his own perfectly eloquent language on the spot, and quite frankly appears to be toying with the parameters of the game. The hoops should be higher, the court bigger, the teammates purposefully incompetent. . . basically, dude should be illegal. The two-dimensional Amare flat-out undermines the idea of the complete game; LeBron is more basketball than basketball itself.
(I hate to make this joke again, but for those who weren't knowing the first time around):
If used correctly, he could be more valuable to a team than Shaq his prime. And before you call me out on that, think about this: MJ was, no question. Heed what the crazy guy said at halftime: "by the time it's all over, they'll be mentioning him in the same breath with Jordan." Anyone not willing to at least reasonably consider this, already, is a pain in the ass.
Laughing sidenote: centuries from now, who wins a game of pay-per-view one-on-one: Arenas's adopted brother or the Katrina evacue Kobe's taken under his wing?