Muhammad Ali

‘I am the greatest’

The NBA Finals, which ended a couple days ago, went pretty much as expected. A series that looked like it could have been classic after the first three games finished with a relative whimper in the final three. The best team, after an early series scare, won. Easily.

And now, at the risk of sounding like a crotchety old bastard, I want to bang a little on LeBron James.

Great series and all that. Coulda been MVP, though I’m good with the pick the writers made. Best player in the world. We know. We know. We’ve known for some time now.

So, why, LeBron? Why this from you?

 

I shouldn’t be huffing about this, right? The man, when you get right down to it, is just telling the truth. Right? And he backs it up. Right?

And it’s not as if LeBron hasn’t said stuff like this before. He has. He hasn’t been shy about it.

It’s not as if tons of athletes, for a lot of years, haven’t said this kind of thing. Ali. Usain Bolt. Dizzy Dean. Ricky Henderson.

Reporter:  … [W]ho is the best basketball player alive right now?

James Harden: Myself.

Reporter: You made that sound like it was an easy answer.

Harden: It is. Myself.

I know. I know. I know. Happens all the time. This shouldn’t bug me.

But … c’mon, LeBron.

You are the best. No right-minded basketball fan doubts it. So why go there, LeBron? Even if it is the truth?

Talent is God given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful.
John Wooden

Look, I’m not one for demanding that athletes be fake humble. That’s worse than flaunting it. In fact, when someone like Harden says he is the best — well, fine. I like that. Believe it if you want, James. (And I believe he does.) If that’s what you need. The rest of us know it’s not true.

But when the best — and, clearly, the best — resorts to pointing out his position, it seems … desperate, I guess. As if he’s looking for validation.

It’s like Hugh Hefner pointing out that he gets all the girls, or Donald Trump telling us he’s rich, or any run-of-the-mill Yankees fan pointing out the 27 World Series titles.

Again. We know already. So just shut up and relax. It sounds better coming from us.

I wasn’t the only one that felt a little disgust at LeBron’s remark. The New York Times’ William C. Rhoden noted that LeBron’s lack of humility — in a series during which many thought he should be named MVP — was jarring. Rhoden talked to some New York Giants players, past and present, on their take:

There’s a certain level of etiquette that we learn as professional athletes. They say never talk about money, never talk bad about the opposing team and never talk about yourself. It’s my belief that he is the best player in the world. But I can see how some people might not like it when it comes from the horse’s mouth.
— linebacker Jon Beason

Rhoden objects to someone like LeBron boasting about his greatness in a team sport, where he is dependent on so many others. And that’s a point.

But I don’t think it’s too much to expect a little humility from a boxer, or a tennis player, or a golfer, either. If s/he is the greatest, we’ll know. We’ll trumpet the fact. We always do.

And it always sounds better coming from us.

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