This past week Chris Paul and the LA Clippers made a second round exit from the NBA playoffs, for Paul this matched the farthest he has ever gone in the big dance. Pretty incredible when you think about it, one of the five best point guards, probably of all time and he cannot even make it to a conference finals? The Clips seemed like contenders this year before owner Donald Sterling destroyed them again, but the fact remains, even on an incredibly talented team, Paul could not lead them through.
The NBA has a bit of a golden generation going on right now with guys like Paul, LeBron and Melo hitting their absolute apexes and yet, this has not translated to much success. Most of these guys have never been in the Finals and only Bron, Wade and Bosh are champions. Dwight Howard made the Finals once and then fell off the contender roadmap. Melo made a conference finals with Denver before killing his own team in an insanely selfish bid to get to New York. The first guy of the generation (other than Shaq aided Wade) to get to the Finals was LeBron who dragged a truly terrible Cavs team there in 07.
Meanwhile, for the LBJ and co group, the next generation is beginning to make their move: KD and Westbrook have been to 3 conference finals and one finals. Harden has been to the finals, DRose made the conference finals and even John Wall has equalled CP3’s success by making the second round. (When you factor in Joe Johnson and Deron Williams you get another group of 2nd rounders) and let’s not even get started on Indiana.
Yet every playoffs still becomes a legacy defining one for LeBron. He has had been substantially more successful in the playoffs and MVP ballots than his peers and we still want to make him prove himself over and over again. Why? Why do we judge him against a steeper curve than anyone else? In truth it is because we can only judge James against one other player, ever, and that is MJ. Is it fair? Jordan never had an MJ to overcome when he began, but now LeBron does because we have seen what the greatest of all time is capable of and not only do we want that from LeBron but we are intent on demanding it. There is a double standard for LBJ and fair or not there is only one set of criteria to judge him, and it is the best of the best. So once again he has to put the creaky Heat on his back and take them as far as he possibly can even though for many, the only acceptable place for him to finish is raising the trophy. I firmly believe that he will once again.