The LeBron James-Oscar Robertson comparison is more accurate than ever

Discussion in 'The Coliseum' started by Noah, Jun 7, 2018.

  1. Noah

    Noah All Star

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    ***This doesn't represent where I put LeBron or anyone else all-time so please do not make this thread about that. Merely a comparison for comparison's sake. I've just noticed that for all the Magic/Jordan/whoever comparisons, we miss out on a very worthy historical likeness that doesn't get brought up anymore. It's gonna be a TL;DR level post so I'll try to make it interesting. You can skip to the bottom if you want the premise without all of the context behind it.



    A lot of people have called this Wilt vs. Celtics and that's also a good comparison. It works considering Wilt did get the best of Russell's Celtics at one point in time, just as LeBron's Cavs did in '16. It also works considering what kind of athlete and player Wilt was compared to LeBron (both transcendent in just about every sense of the word). What makes the Royals/Oscar Robertson a better comp in my mind is that Oscar Robertson's teams were never favored (neither were Wilt's teams save for the '67 team and the '69 team), though you could still argue that Oscar was the most talented player on the floor. I also think the Big O comparison is more apt on the basis of both being primary ball-handlers and both facing scrutiny for their offensive play as lead ball-handlers.



    If you're not familiar with Oscar beyond box score numbers and a few clips, Oscar was one of the smartest players to ever play and one of the most physically dominant guards to ever play. 6'5" barefoot and anywhere between 210-230 lbs, he was an evolutionary leap in basketball's development, a prototype along with Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, Bill Russell, and Wilt Chamberlain that gave us the NBA's first GOATs (unless you want to go way OG and give Mikan a shout-out). His crowning regular season achievement (besides his triple double year) was winning an MVP award square in the middle of Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain's battle for the title of world's best player. He really was as good as anybody. Oscar was a serious perfectionist, a player who combined his physical ability with a very deliberate and cerebral approach. Did it hurt Oscar sometimes? Of course - even though few players could control the tempo of a game like Oscar (a la LeBron), if he was not playing up to his usual standards, the Royals were most likely gonna lose by virtue of their lead ball-handler and most important player being less than incredible. Even with a semi-competent supporting cast, more of Jack Twyman, Jerry Lucas and Wayne Embry and less of Oscar on offense was not gonna get you past the Celtics. Here again we see another parallel: LeBron has to be absolutely incredible for Cleveland to hang with Golden State (see Game 1). But if that isn't the case, as we've seen at other times in the series, more of Kevin Love, J.R. Smith, or George Hill can't get it done against this Golden State team.



    It became a paradox that now could be applied to LeBron: Oscar Robertson is your best player, and logically you should give him the ball on offense as much as possible. Let him post up and run the offense as he likes, and let him lead you. But what if that's not working? So, let the secondary ball-handler and other players get the ball a little more and try to find a rhythm. What if the supporting cast isn't playing well? What if they are, and the opposing team can still beat you? Is there anything that can be done at that point? For Oscar, it required something of a twist of fate: Russell's Celtics had aged out by the end of the decade and Kareem was good enough where Milwaukee could contend the moment Oscar got there. LeBron probably won't have such luck, as Golden State's core are all between 28-30, and any comparisons to a young Kareem Abdul-Jabbar type player are going to be a stretch in some form or fashion (inb4 Joel Embiid mentions). Something has to give if LeBron is to keep his yearly Finals appearances up.



    Let's face it, the Warriors are winning this title barring some crazy shyt. The Warriors are the more complete, dynamic team. They have a couple guys who can (and usually do) outplay your best player on any given night, which few teams have ever had. We'll call them the '60s Celtics based primarily on the fact that they are the best team in the league. On a player comparison basis, it doesn't work. Nobody on Golden State's roster resembles Bill Russell, just as no one on those Boston teams played like KD or Steph. But simply put, the Warriors could, this and future offseasons pending, run the league for another couple years. They're dynasty status.



    On the other end, you have a team whose success is largely dependent on their best player. Not unlike a lot of teams in NBA history, but few are dependent to this degree. The role players are streaky, the ball movement inconsistent, the coaching less than championship-caliber, and the defense porous and spotty in effort. A debate emerges from analyzing Cleveland's performances: Just how much of their shortcomings are on LeBron James? The same question was asked a little under 50 years ago of Oscar Robertson's Royals. The answer the front office and coach came up with, along with a touch of jealousy and a pinch of :mjpls:, got Oscar traded to Milwaukee. Turns out they thought they couldn't win with the way Oscar played (along with his age - Oscar was in his early thirties). Now, LeBron arguably has the most autonomy of anyone that's ever played the game - he's not getting traded. But the question is gaining legitimacy, especially if LeBron is to stay in Cleveland (far from certain) and change up the team from its current iteration. Will LeBron need to change his game, and to what degree? Once Oscar was traded to Milwaukee, he had to dial it back in a number of ways. Lew Alcindor/Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was the new #1 guy, and Oscar focused more on selective scoring, making a more consistent effort on defense, and providing veteran leadership in important moments/games, taking over on both ends as needed. He played the role of a Tony Parker or Bob Cousy; he wasn't the best player on the team, but those teams needed that dude to take them over the top. LeBron could be an extremely overqualified version of older Oscar - provided that that's what the team needs and that's what he wants.



    It's not so much a question of whether LeBron can dial it back as he gets into his mid-thirties; he is capable and will have to eventually. As much as it feels like a dumb question, I can't help but ask if he'll be as willing to take the step back that may be necessary sooner rather than later if he wants to compete with Golden State. I say this as a fan of LeBron and someone who has respect for him. He is in incredible company playing as well as he's played in year 15 and still more or less looks like LeBron James. But if his playing style (defensive lapses, eating shot clock namely) has been a hindrance to his team at times, he needs a situation that will alleviate that. That's a tricky situation to put both a franchise and a franchise player in; LeBron could ostensibly still be a team's number one guy for the next couple years, but he may need to change certain habits and/or take a slight step back on offense (a hard thing to tell a player of LeBron's status). Taking a step back would require a franchise to have a player worth stepping back for (a la Oscar ----> Lew Alcindor). Few if any teams have a player like that. It would then be on the franchise to help assemble a contending team around LeBron that can not only fill in the gaps around him, but step up in his absence or when he isn't playing up to LeBron standards. The Bucks were 30-10 without Oscar Robertson in the lineup over the course of three years. Now, as durable as LeBron is, it's unlikely he misses 40 games in a three or four year stretch, even at the end of his career. But the point is that he likely needs a team that plays at a playoff level without him, which he hasn't always had. It'll take sacrifices from LeBron, the front office, whoever and whatever to form a truly great team. Winning championships require such sacrifices from everyone involved.




    Oddly enough, I had only thought of it from a perspective of LeBron more or less being Oscar with the Celtics more or less being the Warriors, but it can go deeper than that. Kevin Love and Jerry Lucas have similarities in their games. Same with Wayne Embry and Tristan Thompson, both undersized centers but tough rebounders and screen setters. Oscar's coaches in Cincinnati were unable to reach him and were mostly forgettable (until Bob Cousy was hired and :mjpls:'d it up). David Blatt and Ty Lue, depending on who you ask, are either only as successful as they are largely due to LeBron (in other words, mediocre coaches), or better than they are given credit for, and are at times overshadowed and undermined by LeBron, unable to establish a great player-coach relationship that, while not necessary to have, never hurts to develop. With this season being all but a wrap, and with LeBron always looking steps ahead, it'll be interesting to see what he wants to do and where he wants to do it. He can always take something from the history books.


    -------------------------------------------------------------------------


    So what does the Coli think? Is LeBron James in a similar situation to the one Oscar was 50 years ago, and is this a good comparison? What should LeBron do and what does he need to do? What should Cleveland or any team that is rumored to have a shot at LeBron do? We may as well start some offseason discussion now since... yeah.
     
  2. Sunalmighty

    Sunalmighty Superstar

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    I'm not reading all that bullshyt
     
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  3. Love Sicharre

    Love Sicharre PAWGING since ‘67

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    [​IMG]
     
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  4. Tom Thibodeau

    Tom Thibodeau RIP DMX

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    :philjacksonlol: Didn’t read all that, but it seems like you’re onto something, breh.




    :salute:Dap/Pos Rep/5Star
     
  5. Ben.

    Ben. Heisenbrook

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    Noah breh you tried to make a decent thread on thecoli what is wrong with you breh this not HN :dahell:
     
  6. jdubnyce

    jdubnyce Toronto basketball in June :blessed: Supporter

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  7. Foxmulder

    Foxmulder Superstar

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    Rep. Good shyt. :ehh:
     
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  8. Noah

    Noah All Star

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    I didn't ask y'all to read the whole thing :manny: said the important questions were at the bottom at the very beginning of the post. Hope it's the best thing you click on all day tho :pachaha:

    :gladbron::gladbron::gladbron:





    :salute:
     
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  9. Mugen

    Mugen All Star

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    Knicks ass for next 5 years fukk the knicks! Melo!
     
  10. Starboy52

    Starboy52 Superstar

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    Actually did read. Comparison is kinda on point, OP. :ehh:
     
  11. Zach Lowe

    Zach Lowe what up beck

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    maybe historical parallels are there but most legends if you didn't change their games and dropped them in 2018 they'd only be getting recruited to nerd schools and have play there 4 years to get passed on by the league and head overseas
     
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  12. Megadeus

    Megadeus Superstar

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    I read that in my head in Pablo Torre's voice:mjlol:

    Not bad OP, not bad.:ehh:
     
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  13. Da King

    Da King Veteran Hall of Shame Supporter WOAT

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    Dapped and repped for effort, but I’m not reading all that, trim that breh
     
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  14. 2stainz

    2stainz GOON MUSIC Supporter

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    jesus thats a lot of words... :dumdum:
     
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  15. Rekkapryde

    Rekkapryde GT, LWO, 49ERS, BRAVES, HAWKS, N4O...yeah UMAD! Hall of Fame Supporter

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    More Wilt than Oscar
     
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