By Vernon A. Williams, Gary Crusader
Let’s settle the debate once and for all, right here in the middle of Bulls Nation. The greatest NBA player of all time is LeBron James. Hands down. Case closed.
Sorry old-timers, I know that Bill Russell was champion of champions, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was a game changer, Wilt Chamberlain was unstoppable, Oscar Robertson was the most versatile ever.
For the Michael Jordan Minions, I too watched his six championships from nearby Gary, Indiana, so I get the awe inspired by the unending shadow cast by the man from North Carolina. While he may not have walked on water, many will argue that he floated on air.
All that’s good but we had to establish criteria to end this incessant debate or we would be exchanging pros and cons into the next century. No more to say. James is King.
To fully understand how difficult this is for me to concede, you would need to know how I would shout at the television like it could hear me every time LeBron didn’t get called for one of his ridiculous travels. I would have to sometimes flip to the cartoon network when they called a foul on his defender after LeBron shoved him into the cheap seats.
I understand. Jordan got all the calls too. So does any superstar – in general. It was just that he is so talented and so mobile and so big and so strong that the last thing he needed was the advantage of favorable refereeing.
The other thing that made King James’ play on the court so awesome and loathsome at the same time, is his constant whining and pouting and crying when a rare call doesn’t go his way.
All that withstanding, I said it at the outset of this column and I mean it – LeBron is the greatest player to ever play in the National Basketball Association.
LeBron has worn his identity as a proud Black man with un-swerving principle since he entered the NBA. That resolve has only grown over time. He never weighed the impact on his contract or public opinion before jumping into the fray of issues like the 2016 Presidential race.
Remember who spoke out first after the Trayvon Martin murder, LeBron and his Miami Heat team-mates. When an unarmed Black man was choked to death in New York by police, LeBron wore his “I Can’t Breathe” gear.
He has settled for being a “symbolic” leader, like many celebrities. Many are willing to donate their name, their talent or a fraction of their treasure to the cause. But years ago LeBron decided he was giving $42 million in scholarships to Ohio youth. This year, he opened a public school in his home state.
LeBron won’t compromise. He would rather that a team he is on visit the largest penal institution in Ohio than the White House. And James would likely encounter far fewer crooks, liars and thieves that way too.
Frustrated news people try to get him to “shut up and dribble.” LeBron laughs in their faces with the confidence of a man who knows who he is.
Finally, not that the school, scholarships, consistently outspoken stances, and overall level of dignity wouldn’t be enough, but LeBron James sealed his destiny as the greatest NBA player of all time working with Octavia Spenser to produce a movie telling the Madame C.J. Walker Story.
What conscientious African American man or woman hasn’t asked the question of how long Black America is going to be held host-age to the whims of white Hollywood – knowing that they don’t love us?
With athletes and entertainers earning hundreds of millions of dollars in the new millennium, what stops them from individually or collectively producing the kinds of entertainment their children and grandchildren can be proud of some day.
LeBron won’t just talk about it, he will be about it. And for that, he is the greatest of all time in the NBA. Now the hope is he will help other wealthy Blacks to follow his lead.
CIRCLE CITY CONNECTION by Vernon A. Williams is a series of essays on myriad topics that include social issues, human interest, entertainment and profiles of difference-makers who are forging change in a constantly evolving society. Williams is a 40-year veteran journalist based in Indianapolis, IN – commonly referred to as The Circle City. Send comments or questions to: [email protected].