IN ASSESSING LEBRON James, I recall that, when Michael Jordan was deemed the greatest athlete of the 20th century by ESPN, my immediate reaction was, "He's not even the best player in NBA history." So, keeping in mind that LeBron is not Wilt Chamberlain or Bill Russell, Elgin Baylor or Oscar Robertson, Magic Johnson or, yes, Michael Jordan, there is one word that describes his recent raise-the-game-a-notch period of excellence:
The thing is, you don't need numbers to elucidate LeBron's monstrous on-court brilliance; all you need to do is watch him play.
When LeBron gets the ball and starts charging down the middle of the floor, it's as if he's a human locomotive - as a defender, you can either let him run by you or run over you; either way, he's getting to the rim undeniably and forcibly.
LeBron's post-dunk scowl could scare a fox back into a foxhole.
But LeBron's skills go far beyond his open-court prowess. His shot selection, his precision passing, his rebounding, his understanding of game flow - yes, I said his understanding of game flow - have gotten so good, it makes him the NBA's best and led to his recent freakish numbers.
Sports Nation's jaw dropped when LeBron became the first player to score at least 30 points and shoot 60 percent or better in six consecutive games. This was a "record," we were told, though I'm offering $1.25 to the first person who shows me what record book it appears in.
(I'm not going to make fun of stats anymore because the stats people then make fun of me. This I have found out: The New Age Sabermetricians know stuff the rest of us could not possibly comprehend. Just the other day, I ran into one of them in the produce aisle of the supermarket, and he produced a statistical abstract of an avocado.)
Speaking of stats, did you know that Kevin Garnett is the only player with 25,000 points, 10,000 rebounds, 5,000 assists, 1,500 steals and 1,500 blocked shots? I now know because I've heard it cited 37 times in the last two weeks. Meanwhile, Rasheed Wallace is the only player with 15,000 points, 1,000 steals, 1,000 blocked shots, 300 technical fouls and 100 tattoos.
Anyway, LeBron's 30-60 feat, I believe, is one of the great stretches in post-Renaissance history. To be sure, it compares favorably with the three greatest, documented stretches of high-level productivity since the 16th century: