With the NBA Finals upon us, Couch Slouch today will debate the issue, “LeBron: LeBest or LePraisedTooHighly?” He will argue with himself, a skill he developed while residing alone for many years between marriages.
Argument for LeBron James: What a story we might have here — prodigal son leaves home, scorned, then returns to rejuvenate city of Cleveland with its first pro sports title in 51 years. It sounds like a Disney movie starring Shia LaBeouf and Cuba Gooding Jr.
LeBron’s 2015 playoff averages are astounding — 27.6 points, 10.4 rebounds and 8.3 assists per game, numbers not seen since Oscar Robertson put up 31.8, 13.0 and 9.0 per game in 1963 with the Cincinnati Royals.
This is LeBron’s fifth consecutive NBA Finals and sixth overall, including his 2007 appearance in his first stint with the Cavaliers.
Have you seen whom LeBron is carrying into these NBA Finals?
In Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Atlanta Hawks, the Cavaliers’ other starters were Matthew Dellavedova, Timofey Mozgov, Iman Shumpert and Tristan Thompson. In an L.A. summer league last year, my team — two ex-wives; my rescue dog, Sapphire; and me — beat Dellavedova, Mozgov, Shumpert and Thompson four-on-four.
The Cavaliers’ top reserve is J.R. Smith. When Smith played in New York with Carmelo Anthony, it was a nightly shoot-first-and-play-no-defense fest. Now, under LeBron’s care, Smith is a model teammate; I half-expect him to join the Cleveland Chamber of Commerce in the offseason, maybe work a soup kitchen on weekends.
And, hey, how do you guard LeBron? King James is unguardable, just like the Great Sphinx is unmovable. When he’s charging down the open floor with ball in hand, it feels as if anybody or anything in his path will be buried under rubble.
(Column Intermission: There is no argument about Stephen Curry. If LeBron is a freight train, Curry is a Ferris wheel. He’s perpetually in motion, a one-man carousel; he makes a whirling dervish look like a cinnamon Danish. No one in sports is more fun or more joyful to watch at the moment. And how about his daughter, Riley? If Hollywood studios had a draft for precocious 2-year-olds, she would be a lottery pick.)
Argument against LeBron James: Spare me this whole business of LeBron resurrecting the city of Cleveland. Really? Guess what? C-Town — with its Playhouse Square Center, Case Western Reserve, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Cleveland Clinic, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Cleveland Museum of Art, et. al. — was fine before LeBron. A LeBron triple-double or a Cavaliers title doesn’t send real-estate prices soaring in Shaker Heights.
Sure, LeBron perennially makes the NBA Finals, but the Eastern Conference champion plays a JV schedule to get there while the West champ plays a varsity schedule.
Here are the six first-round opponents LeBron has beaten in his NBA Finals years: 2007 Wizards, 41-41 record; 2011 76ers, 41-41; 2012 Knicks, 36-30; 2013 Bucks, 38-44; 2014 Bobcats, 43-39; 2015 Celtics, 40-42. Essentially, LeBron gets a bye into the second round every season.
For all his greatness, LeBron has won only two NBA titles. Two! Heck, George W. Bush won two presidential elections, and Werner Klemperer — Col. Klink! — won two Emmys. How tough is two?
As for LeBron’s epic drives to the hoop, he often initiates the contact, sometimes plowing into the defender, and the other guy often gets called for a foul.
Plus, if you were shooting 17.6 percent on three-point attempts during the playoffs like LeBron, you would keep driving to the basket, too. Seventeen percent! Geez, LeBron — if DeAndre Jordan can make 40 percent of his shots from the foul line, how hard can it be to make, say, 20 percent of your shots from the three-point line?
And don’t get me started on LeBron’s “crab dribble.” As former Wizard Caron Butler once said, “ ‘Crab dribble’ is when you, uh, travel.” Yet the NBA has decided to look the other way on LeBron’s crab dribble for years — that would be like Peter, Paul and Mary hiring Charles Ponzi to manage the folk-singing trio and ignoring the fact he’s robbing Peter to pay Paul.
He’s a bum.
Q. As part of his guilty plea for soliciting a prostitute, Warren Sapp has to attend a “prostitution solicitation diversion program.” What exactly is that? (Michael Wolf; Spokane, Wash.)
A. I think it teaches johns to patronize hookers of all backgrounds.
Q. Was John Wall tossed off that plane by Joey Crawford? (Ryan Miller; Silver Spring)
A. Here’s my problem with Wall — if the issue was leg room, it’s ridiculous he just didn’t upgrade to Economy Plus.
Q. Have you ever used a “foreign substance” while writing? (Paul Schwartz; Milwaukee)
A. Sometimes I throw a Spanish or French expression into the column.
Q. I was watching a “catch and release” fishing show and noticed the same fish keeps appearing. Is that also true in poker? (James W. Hayes; Haymarket)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.
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