ALDLAND Podcast

Even the ALDLAND Podcast is not immune from Lebron discussion, and so we start off the episode with that very topic. Where will he go? Why will he go there? All these questions and more are discussed. But don’t worry, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, we haven’t forgot about you and also predict your landing destinations. Not to be left out, soccer makes its presence felt in this edition of the ALDLAND Podcast as the World Cup final gets a healthy preview.

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Four thoughts on the Miami Heat’s 2012 NBA championship

1. It was just last Thursday that the Miami Heat claimed the 2012 NBA championship with a blowout win over the Oklahoma City Thunder, yet it feels like it could have been six months ago. Maybe that’s because I don’t follow the NBA that carefully, but I get this feeling with nearly every passing major sports championship, and I remember it even as a kid, so it isn’t a feature of a developing perspective on time with age. It could be that the media mediates our experience of sports more than we realize. Hyperanalysis of championship games and series builds so much anticipation and tension. By the morning after the clinching game, though, the championship really does feel like yesterday’s news. Absent a controversial happening during the game, the media typically offers little beyond a standard game breakdown and an interview with a player or coach before jumping right into previewing the next season.

2. The morning-after conversation after this championship was all about LeBron James. The media’s beat on James had already begun to shift once the Heat made it to the finals, and by the time Miami clinched, they had made a complete 180 on LeBron. Had LeBron really changed, though? In some ways, probably. We’re told he developed his post game this year. That’s definitely something material. But if material, identifiable, quantifiable basketball things were the focus, his winning a championship wasn’t the point of change. He wasn’t heralded as the greatest when he was having, by the numbers, the best season in basketball history earlier this year, or when he won his third regular season MVP award, only questioned more. The nexus of the widespread criticism seemed to be personal and stem from things like the artistic merit of The Decision and The Introduction, his prediction that he’ll win eight championships, his apparent laissez-faire attitude with respect to competitiveness and the fourth quarter, his receding hairline and associated coping method, his unwillingness to shake hands when he loses, his calling the mother of his children his sidekick, etc. etc. If some or all of these are the bases for your beefs with James, though, the new ring on his finger changes nothing. Drew Magary, as usual, cuts to the chase:

There’s never been any question that LeBron James is a great basketball player. And even when he was coming up short in the playoffs, haters like myself just used those failures as an easy excuse to pile on him further, because he’s a dipsh[–] and he deserved it. The fact that he’s won a championship doesn’t fundamentally alter his character in any way. That’s the great con of sports: the idea that winners win because they have character and losers lose because they don’t. If you think LeBron is a good guy now because he won a title, then you probably had no business thinking he was a bad guy to begin with, because the outcome of a sporting event says nothing about the person within.

I never decided if I am a “LeBron hater,” which probably means I’m not. The only thing that really bugged me was his unwillingness to shake hands after he lost that championship with Cleveland. I guess I’m more agnostic about him, and I don’t think he’s more likely to win eight championships now than he was a week ago or a year ago save for the mathematical fact that he now has one of those eight.  Keep reading…

Dr. Dwayne

More from Andy, the West Coast Elite who brought you this and was a guest host on the ALDLAND Podcast a few weeks ago:

Or, How I learned to stop Worrying and embrace that NBA Players can wear whatever they want.
OR can they????

All I’ll add is that I’m still waiting for the tipping point– I mean, let’s be (un)real: we’ve got NBA’ers wearing specs with no lenses– and that looks like a player doing a press conference with a monocle and a bubble pipe. There’s still time.

LeBron James is the 2011-2012 MVP, and rightly so

Back in February, I asserted that LeBron James was the best basketball player ever, and at that point, he was. He had at that point, by a comfortable margin, a higher player efficiency rating than any player ever had achieved. (General explanation of PER in the previous post; full explanation here.) Although he regressed from 32.8 to 30.74 to finish the season, it still was good enough to be the tenth best season ever by an individual player. In so doing, James knocked David Robinson out of the top ten, meaning that James (4, 9, 10), Wilt Chamberlain (1, 2, 5), and Michael Jordan (3, 6, 7, 8) collectively turned in the ten best seasons of professional basketball ever played.

James’ competitors for the MVP this year weren’t even close to him:

Rank Player PER
1. LeBron James 30.74
2. Chris Paul 27.04
3. Dwayne Wade 26.31
4. Kevin Durant 26.20
5. Kevin Love 25.36
6. Dwight Howard 24.24
7. Blake Griffin 23.43
8. Derrick Rose 23.02
9. Russell Westbrook 22.94
9. Andrew Bynum 22.94

For comparison, Paul is the only other player whose 2011-12 charted on the top 100 all time— at #79.

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Previously
LeBron James is the best professional basketball player ever

LeBron James is the best professional basketball player ever

It might not seem like it, but, as discussed on ESPN Radio’s Mike & Mike this morning, LeBron James’ current season is the best season a professional player has ever had. John Hollinger, also of ESPN, created the Player Efficiency Rating (PER) metric for basketball players. In (his) general terms, “the PER sums up all a player’s positive accomplishments, subtracts the negative accomplishments, and returns a per-minute rating of a player’s performance.” It’s an advanced metric, and really, it’s a doubly advanced metric because it’s derivative of other advanced metrics. If you want it, the nitty gritty is here, but what PER allows us to do is compare individual players with their contemporaries and with those from other eras on equal footing.

The following is a list of the top individual full-season performances, based on PER, in the history of the NBA and ABA:

Rank    Player PER Season Tm
1. Wilt Chamberlain 31.84 1962-63 SFW
2. Wilt Chamberlain 31.76 1961-62 PHW
3. Michael Jordan 31.71 1987-88 CHI
4. LeBron James 31.67 2008-09 CLE
5. Wilt Chamberlain 31.64 1963-64 SFW
6. Michael Jordan 31.63 1990-91 CHI
7. Michael Jordan 31.19 1989-90 CHI
8. Michael Jordan 31.14 1988-89 CHI
9. LeBron James 31.10 2009-10 CLE
10. David Robinson 30.66 1993-94 SAS

The full list from Basketball-Reference is here.

James already has two of the ten best seasons, and he’s the only active player in that group. (His teammate, Dwayne Wade, is the next active player listed, at 13.) If the current season ended today, though, James would post a PER of 32.8, by far the highest mark ever recorded.

Perception is a valid and important check on the things statistics tell us. I feel like there are a million things one could write about James and perception, expectations, image, and legacy, all of which would get at the fact that the title of this post is something I’d guess most people reject as an initial, gut reaction but also something we all expected we would read, write, or say at some point. There are myriad potential lessons here. One is that these advanced metrics are a way of witnessing history in the moment, something that’s difficult to do based upon perception alone. Another is that, darn it, I hate LeBron and sabermetrics are for idiot-nerds. A third raises questions about the value we place on winning championships as a component of individual players’ legacies. A fourth is that Patrick Ewing, whose best season comes in at #117 on the big list, might not be the Dan Marino of the 1980s and 1990s NBA, and Kobe Bryant, whose best season so far comes in at #51, isn’t quite the heir to His Airness’ throne, or even Shaq’s big seat. And on and on.

Philadelphia dreamin’, on such a summer’s day

It’s been over a year since “The Decision.” Thirteen months since Miami’s “Big Three” hit South Beach. Two months since the Heat lost in the NBA Finals. One month since the NFL lockout ended. In other words, it’s time for the media to reprise the dream team motif that paid their bills through the NBA season. NFL free agency, though compressed, has been slow, with one exception. Keep reading…