Taking one's talents to South Beach

By Razib Khan | June 12, 2011 7:56 pm

So It didn’t work out for LeBron this year. I suspect it will work in the near future. Remember that it took Shaq and Kobe four years to win their first championship. Talent doesn’t guarantee a championship, but it sure does increase the odds. For now though I’m savoring. Though perhaps not as much as the people in Cleveland.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Sports
MORE ABOUT: LeBron James, NBA, Sports
  • Darkseid

    not really a true bball fan but i wanted him to win cuz i felt bad he wasted all those years in Cleveland. 7 years is a lot of lost time for being one of the best ever. and Kobe…don’t be rapin':
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z4RH2DBb8T4&feature=player_detailpage#t=196s

  • Miley Cyrax

    I definitely wanted Miami to win just to shove it to all the bandwagon haters. I’m tired of the “Lebron-hasn’t-won-a-championship-narrative” and want sportswriters to write about something else. That being said, it’s going to be rough for Miami going forward. According to analyses done by Dave Berri, NBA players peak at about 25, and Lebron’s past that now. And Wade’s going to be turning 30 soon. Miami will need fresh acquisitions to improve.

  • juan

    LeBron does seem to be somewhat emotionally stunted. Being worshiped as a basketball god from the age of 12 doesn’t seem to have prepared him well to handle failure. I had to turn off the post-game press conference, too painful. LeBron was both obviously trying not to cry, and also angrily saying that he didn’t care what anybody thought about him. Even though it’s clear he really does care a great deal and really wished everybody would back to saying how awesome he is. A very petulant press conference. When I was a teenager I would have reacted the same way.

    This is possibly the first true failure of LeBron’s life. With Cleveland everybody knew the rest of his team was horrible, so he wasn’t really expected to win.

    LeBron should stick to making commercials. When unscripted he just seems like an arrogant, immature jerk who can’t handle criticism or failure. I’m sure his ad agency will make some cool off season ads, though. And I’m sure he’ll win eventually — although the West seems loaded with talent.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    According to analyses done by Dave Berri, NBA players peak at about 25, and Lebron’s past that now. And Wade’s going to be turning 30 soon. Miami will need fresh acquisitions to improve.

    i think you need to grade on a curve for really great players. their career arc is somewhat different, because they often change their mix of skills and talents as they age. jordan was in his late 20s before he won, and he lost some of his step as he moved into his 30s, but i think he became a better shooter. and look at the mavs. dirk and kidd are both past their peak, but they won.

  • juan

    One serious critique of LeBron is that he has failed to develop a post-up game. Shocking, given how tall and how strong he is, but he doesn’t play well with his back to the basket. Instead his offense is mainly getting the ball near the arc and either shooting or driving to the basket.

    If LeBron develops a post game that would create even more match-up problems for his opponents, and would also work better against the zone.

    Jordan developed an excellent post-up game. Whenever a smaller player would try to guard him, Jordan would recognize the mismatch and back him down into the paint. LeBron can’t do that. He can only work from the outside, and has to have the ball.

    LeBron’s lack of a post game meant he was often effectively guarded by the much smaller Jason Kidd in the finals. If he could post-up it would be simple, take the big guys outside and the small guys inside. Right now LeBron can’t take advantage of that mismatch. His offense is the same regardless of who guards him — try to drive past them and dunk, or shoot a long jumper off the dribble. Those are his two moves.

  • Miley Cyrax

    @Razib
    “i think you need to grade on a curve for really great players. their career arc is somewhat different, because they often change their mix of skills and talents as they age. jordan was in his late 20s before he won, and he lost some of his step as he moved into his 30s, but i think he became a better shooter. and look at the mavs. dirk and kidd are both past their peak, but they won.”

    From what I’ve seen over the years, I agree; really great players do seem to hold up better in terms of longevity. However, Jordan didn’t all of a sudden start winning championships because he got better, but rather because Horace Grant emerged as a stellar third option and later Dennis Rodman was acquired as the de facto replacement third wheel. Jordan and Pippen didn’t do it on their own. Jordan held up relatively well in the mid to late 90s (Jordan peaked statistically in the early 90s). However, Jordan was also a late bloomer (5’11” as an H.S. sophomore) whereas Lebron was almost fully grown (about 6’6″ or 6’7″) at the same age. If we accept that an earlier rise foreshadows an earlier decline, it doesn’t bode well for Lebron vis a vis Jordan. Lebron’s productivity this year was already worse than it was last year; it may be chalked up to being unaccustomed to playing with Wade and Bosh… but then again, the change of setting might be a red herring that masks Lebron’s inherent decline.

    And also, Dirk and Kidd won because they had great teammates*, despite what the MSM seems to be peddling (MSM seems to be favoring a Dirk + random guys narrative). Marion was the best player on the Suns in the Nash-Amare era, putting up better all around numbers than his more heralded teammates. This was someone nicknamed “The Matrix,” easily a top 10 player just a few years ago. Chandler is also vastly underrated (including his Hornets days), as he provides excellent size for interior D, rebounding, and shooting efficiency. And also, Barea and Terry played extremely well this series, but I think part of it was due to luck. Terry hit a lot of tough jump shots with hands in his face.

    I personally suspect the human body starts deteriorating physically once puberty is finished. My footspeed and vertical leap peaked when I was nineteen or twenty; same with my old high school friends. Being a college/professional athlete obviously helps slow the physical decline; for NBA players, I’m guessing the advancement in skills outweighs the physical deterioration until about 25, when skill advancement hits diminishing returns and physical deterioration starts overriding skill advancement. Derrick Rose has gotten better as an NBA player though he estimates his vertical has decreased by about 3″ since entering the league, although he chalks it up to the wear and tear of the NBA season and not to inherent decline.

    *They have held up really well age-wise though. Kidd has indeed reinvented himself from an athletic fast break guard to his current form.

  • Miley Cyrax

    @juan
    “One serious critique of LeBron is that he has failed to develop a post-up game. Shocking, given how tall and how strong he is, but he doesn’t play well with his back to the basket. Instead his offense is mainly getting the ball near the arc and either shooting or driving to the basket.”

    True, his lack of post-up game is rather alarming, but I doubt it’s due to lack of effort. Sometimes in sports people are just surprisingly terrible at certain aspects of the game. In my teenage years I was a spry point guard with a great handle and good quickness, but I could never execute a spin dribble in a game despite the bewilderment of my coaches. Although I feel it never hindered my overall effectiveness as a player, I just never felt comfortable with it and wasn’t good at it, but not for lack of practice. Not that my anecdotal n=1 testimony means much, but I can definitely sympathize with Lebron for not being comfortable with one aspect of the game.

  • dave chamberlin

    Basketball is truly a team game, and the Heat wasn’t nearly as good as other teams in creating open shots by a series of quick passes. They may learn to work together better but for the best teams the offense goes through the point guard, which they don’t have and won’t have the money to pay for. The Heat at this point have great talent but because of a maxed out payroll a lot of holes in key areas. Their big three players have over lapping skill sets rather than complimentary ones. They may have picked each other as team mates but a general manager with the choice of star players wouldn’t have. There are a couple of dominate big men on lousy teams and historically one of them gets traded to a team with all the other pieces. Think Gasol or Shaq with the Lakers or Garnett with the Celtics. My guess is this is a down year in terms of a dominate NBA team and the Heat will never put it together for a multi championship run. Dwight Howard is a monster and if he gets traded to the right team this Heat team will be unfairly tagged as losers in the long run.

  • juan

    On the post-up game. It’s generally considered one of the more teachable aspects of the game. It’s very common for athletic big men, like LeBron, to make it all the way to the NBA without a post game. Why? Because their talent was so dominant they had no need to and prior to the NBA they were so much quicker than their opponents they could easily just drive around them.

    Typically it’s only the slower, less coordinated big men who master the post-up game from a young age – because they have to, they have no other route to success in basketball.

    So LeBron has no real excuse for not developing a post-up game, other than lack of practice. It’s a very teachable skill that can be, and has been, mastered by people with far less athleticism, coordination, speed, and talent than LeBron.

    Partly it’s just LeBron sticking to what has worked for him since he was 12 — and which has made him a 7x All-Star, 2x MVP, got him to the Finals twice, and made him one of the richest men on the planet — so it’s understandable why he hasn’t felt the need to seriously develop an inside game.

  • Zig

    Surprised to read above the Nash/Marion comment.

    Steve Nash is a two time MVP and clear HOF player while Marion was a fringe AllStar type and frankly was exposed as being somewhat one dimensional (or maybe two since he is a good defender) once he didn’t have Nash passing him the ball.

    Dirk is peaking these last two years clearly. At 32 he is as good as he has ever been. They are running two and three guys at him in the high post. He is doing things in this game someone his size has never done. As Magic said at this point Dirk is unstoppable in the NBA

    Marion is nothing more than a solid player now, Kidd is much less than he was at his age. Terry is a great streaky shooter but Dirk in this playoffs secured his legacy as a top 20 player of all time. He is extraordinary talent. Usually Championship teams have two superstar HOF players in their prime.

  • réalta fuar

    Juan above has diagnosed LeBron’s liabilities very well. I agree completely and might go a bit further: LeBron is good or very good at just about all aspects of the game but he’s not GREAT at any of them except finishing in transition. It’s hard to think of a dominant player who didn’t have at least one great skill. He reminds me of Ralph Sampson in this aspect. This year will tell: if LeBron comes back with a good post-up game (as Juan said, a very learnable skill, especially for one so athletic) then his chances of winning a championship will greatly increase. Otherwise, not so much. Jordan is actually the exception, as he is in so many areas, in that most top players do NOT add skills as they age (there are others, less extreme, as Kidd has certainly added a decent 3 point set shot).
    I’ll argue that Miami actually over-achieved this year and there’s no guarantee they’ll get better unless they add more talent. Wade and James both shot the 3 much better than they ever had historically in the earlier rounds. Take them back to their career averages and give Chicago a healthy Boozer, and they don’t make the finals. If Chalmers doesn’t shoot off the charts (and get some bad calls from refs), Miami gets dominated in the finals. In terms of team chemistry and emotional strengh, they’re more likely to self-destruct than they are to get better. As gets proven just about every year at this time, basketball really is the ultimate team sport.

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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com

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