As I sat here looking to write this column, I wrote a few paragraphs only to subsequently delete them. The first idea was a redux on the fantasy column I wrote earlier this year—a look-back at what I said, what took place, and how I ended up. Boring. The second one was a look at Jose Altuve and J.J. Watt winning Sportsperson of the Year. As we no longer roll out our Cleveland Sportsperson of the Year columns, I was going to use this space to discuss who would’ve won this year had we done as much. The rub: WKYC did that yesterday.
So I’m going to use this space to direct you to the latest column from The Ringer’s Shea Serrano. After he perfectly discussed the 20th anniversary of Good Will Hunting earlier this week, he comes back with a great look at LeBron James with the million-dollar question: His dunks versus his blocks. Every game comes with dunks, and it feels like every game comes with at least one roof-raising block. Atlanta’s Dennis Schröder was one of James’ latest victims as the four-time MVP snared one off the top of the backboard late in the fourth quarter. The best part of that game: It wasn’t even the first insane block.
Take it away, Shea:
With about three and a half minutes left in the second quarter, Taurean Prince received a pass out near the right side of the 3-point line. He caught the ball, looked over the floor, saw that it was him and LeBron James in a one-on-one, and decided to give it a shot. … Prince, spotting the opening, accelerated past LeBron in the other direction. And, honestly, it looked for a moment like it would work; he got his shoulder past LeBron, gathered the ball, and rose up for a layup. And that’s when catastrophe struck.
Turned out, LeBron had set a trap. He intended to funnel Prince in exactly that direction for exactly one reason: to thunderstrike him in the forehead with a battering ram made of titanium. Prince jumped for the layup, thinking it was safe as he let the ball go, and then, like one of those clips where they show the giant great white shark exploding out of the water into the air as he eats a seal, LeBron appeared. He reached his arm up alongside Prince’s, put his hand up into the sky, and then legitimately and actually and literally volleyball-spiked the basketball back down to the floor.
As a person who strongly dislikes the use of adverbs in writing, the use of “actually” and “literally” here are perfect. The ball went straight down, winding up into the waiting hands of Jae Crowder as if it were a bounce pass from the heavens. The Philips Arena crowd murmured over the play for what felt like minutes. Play didn’t stop. The Cavs drove down to the other end where James would deliver an actual pass to Crowder for an easy two points, but the Hawks fans in attendance were still amazed by what transpired during the previous play. While I would love to have the ability to include “thunderstrike him in the forehead” in a sentence, that’s a perfect depiction of what had happened.
Meanwhile, there’s a weird facet of folks on Twitter who are anxiously awaiting LeBron to slow down, to show that he is actually human. James, meanwhile, is putting up one of the best seasons of his career, just weeks out from his 33rd birthday. I’m 36 and I pull muscles in my neck when I sneeze. Perspective, people.
While I’ll never quite understand people getting tired of excellence, here’s more from Serrano.
Here’s a fun fact: LeBron has nearly twice as many dunks in his career (1,651) as he does blocks (844). Here’s another fun fact: LeBron has been in the NBA for 15 seasons. Guess what season it was when he had the most dunks. LAST SEASON, if you can even believe that shit. He was 32 years old and had 145 dunks. For comparison, he had 91 dunks as a fresh-legged 19-year-old rookie. For an even better comparison, Kobe, against whom James is often measured, had 38 dunks when he was 32 years old. They played nearly the same amount of minutes in those seasons (LeBron played 2,794 minutes and Kobe played 2,779 minutes) and LeBron had nearly 400 percent more dunks than Kobe. That’s nuts.
Also nuts: From the Cavaliers’ championship season, James’ signature contribution—the stuff on the posters, the stuff that gets a “the” name—is his block of Andre Iguodala. The closing speed. The timing. The stretch of play in the game that no sports fan should have to endure. It was beautiful, yet it was just one of so, so many blocked shots at the hands of a 6-foot-8-inch small forward who perennially gets chastised by the keyboards for his lack of defense.
So what’s the ultimate answer? I don’t want to paste Serrano’s closing thoughts here as it’s a story you should check out. Let’s just say includes more sharks jumping out of the water.
This Week in #ActualSportswriting:
- “This Thanksgiving, football isn’t an argument. It’s THE argument.” by Tom Junod (ESPN The Magazine)
- “Is this the end of the NFL?” by Will Leitch (NY Magazine)1
- “After 312 Straight Losses, Juvenile Court’s Girls Basketball Team Prevails” by John Branch (NY Times)
- “Welcome to the Adam Thielen Experience” by Tyler Dunne (B/R Mag)
This Week in #ActualNonsportswriting:
- “Would You Take Out a Loan for a Pair of Jeans?” by Susie Cagle (RACKED)
- “Rachel Brosnahan’s Comic Timing” by Rachel Syme (NY Times)
- “Why has R. Kelly’s Career Thrived Despite Sexual Misconduct Allegations?” by Jim DeRogatis (New Yorker)2
- “Where Millenials Come From—and Why We Insist on Blaming Them For It” by Jia Tolentino (New Yorker)3
This Week in B/R:
This Week in Picks:
This section is all about odds, right? Well, what are the odds that I can go 13-3 ATS in a week and somehow pick one of the three in this section? If it had to go one way or the other, I’d take the 13-3 every time (including a bit of a nail-biter on Monday night), but man. The good news is that 13-3 finish led to another win, my second in the last four weeks. It also moved me from 17th to 5th place overall, which is a crazy look into the sizable impact of a win versus a loss. Let’s keep it rolling in Week 14. With only two lines of at least a touchdown and a ton of home favorites, it’s shaping to be a tough one.
Green Bay (-3) over CLEVELAND
Seattle (+3) at JACKSONVILLE
Philadelphia (+1) at LA RAMS
YTD ATS: 24-15 (61.5 percent)
Last Week: 2-1
- “There was a time, not long ago, when the NFL was the most unifying public institution we had.” [↩]
- “When it comes to the heavy lifting necessary to expose sexual predators, the pop-music beat has attracted fewer investigative reporters than politics, or even Hollywood.” [↩]
- “The type of millennial that much of the media flocks to—white, rich, thoughtlessly entitled—is largely unrepresentative of what is, in fact, a diverse and often downwardly mobile group.” [↩]