LeBron James isn’t just good. He’s better than good.
He’s historically good.
As a rookie, he was one of the best 19-year-olds ever in the NBA. Then he was one of the best 20-year-olds of all time. And now James, who turns 21 on Friday, is having one of the best seasons ever by a 21-year-old: 30.3 points, 6.0 rebounds, 5.5 assists.
Ron Artest and the dress code aside, this is a great time to be an NBA fan. Look at the talented players who are still younger than 25: Andrei Kirilenko, Amare Stoudemire, Dwyane Wade, Gilbert Arenas, Tony Parker, Chris Bosh, Dwight Howard, Chris Paul.
And James is better than all of them. There isn’t anything he can’t do on a basketball court. There isn’t a basketball talent he lacks.
He can score from anywhere on the court. His percentages from 3-point range and from the free throw line are up from last season. At 6-foot-8, James rebounds from the forward spot. Finally, he is that rarest of superstars — one willing to pass the ball.
James at 21 — this is one of the fun parts of watching the best basketball players.
Tim Duncan and Shaquille O’Neal — with three championships each — are concerned with their legends, with being the best players of their generation. Less decorated players like Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki and Kevin Garnett would settle for one title.
But watching James is pure fun. It’s about watching a player mature, seeing what little nugget he has added to his game this season, this month, this week.
James isn’t just good because he puts up gaudy numbers. He’s a pleasing player to watch. There’s nothing herky-jerky about his game, but he’s still explosive. He’s smooth, he’s cool. He’s part Jordan and Magic.
There is just one problem, one caveat to all the praise. This is nitpicking, to be sure, but this is what comes with being LeBron James.
After a dunk or a big shot, James has developed the habit of scowling and grimacing. This has become common practice in the NBA during the last decade. But it should go the way of Latrell Sprewell.
This is basketball. There is no reason to frown. There is every reason for James to be happy. He is young, rich and gifted.
Magic possessed the joy of a little kid. Jordan had a swagger, a glint in his eye but not a glare. He was having fun. Magic and Jordan invited the crowd into the game so they could have fun, too.
These little differences are part of the fun of watching James.