Sustained excellence has its perks, but it can also be a bit of a curse. Because when you routinely excel at something, the general populace tends to take it for granted.
Enter LeBron James, who last I checked, is somehow averaging 25.8 points, eight dimes, and eight assists per game in his 18th season in the NBA. Did I mention this man is supposed to be well-past his athletic prime at 36 years of age?
Yet year after year, season after season, King James puts up similar numbers no matter what coach or team he plays for—while making his teammates better in the process. We’re talking about a dude who’s brought a Larry O’Brien trophy to three different cities and has shown zero signs of slowing down any time soon.
Do you know how freakishly impossible it is to play at this level at that age with that much mileage on your body? And he’s not only played at this level in 1,305 regular-season games (and counting), he elevates his play in the playoffs during lengthy postseason runs year after year. How soon we forget that this sentient cheat code made it to the NBA Finals eight seasons in a row. How is that even humanly possible?
But again, when you’re arguably the greatest professional athlete who’s ever lived, people take that shit for granted. Take, for instance, the fact that LeBron has somehow only won four MVP awards even though he’s been the best player in the league for...how long now?
Clearly, the 17-time All-Star feels some kind of way about being habitually short-changed. So after unleashing a vicious 37-point assault on the Charlotte Hornets on Thursday night, LeBron had some things to get off of his chest.
“I should have more than four, I believe,” he told reporters. “I don’t sit around thinking about it or crying about it, or whatever the case may be. I just try to come in the next season and be the MVP and be talked about it again. I bet a lot of the greatest that played this game feel like they should have more as well, if you ask any one of those guys.”
Look, I know y’all love Kobe, but he wasn’t puttin’ it down like this at 36. Jordan wasn’t either. And during a season when LeBron is putting up video game numbers while carrying the Lakers during Anthony Davis’ extended absence, there’s still a good chance that Joel Embiid or Nikola Jokić will deprive King James of a fifth MVP award.
And I get it; the sportscasters and sportswriters voting for MVP like to spread the love around and award the player with the best “story.” When Steph Curry’s Warriors were bullying the entire league, it was his turn. When Russell Westbrook averaged a triple-double for a full season for the first time in 50 years, there wasn’t a chance in hell he wasn’t winning MVP. But when LeBron finally calls it a career at 87—because at this point, do we really think he’ll ever slow down?—and talking heads, barbershops and whoever else reflect on his career, how goofy is it going to look that this one-of-a-kind, generational talent only won Most Valuable Player four times?
But I guess that’s the curse of sustained greatness. Because when you routinely excel at your craft, the general populace tends to take it for granted.