LeBron James is the best player in the NBA. It’s as close to fact as such a subjective matter can be. This article is not written to debate whether or not James in the NBA’s best player. That argument can be put to bed by this single point: if offered, there isn’t one single team in the league that wouldn’t trade their best player straight up for LeBron James. Chicago would swap Derrick Rose in a heartbeat. Orlando would give up Dwight Howard. The Lakers would part ways with Kobe Bryant. Mark Cuban would drive Dirk Nowitzki to Dallas airport. Every team would happily roll out the red carpet for the King. And yet, despite this, I can’t remember the best player in the league ever having so many detractors. Whilst there is no question that James has his critics because of ESPN’s infamous ‘The Decision’, and the now iconic quote ‘I’m taking my talents to South Beach’, the truth is that James deserved all the bad press he received for his ridiculous behaviour last off-season, and it’s easy to understand why people would be turned off James personally. But ever since his performance for the Cleveland Cavaliers against the Boston Celtics in last season’s playoffs, James has also had his critics for his actual basketball play. It must come as a bit of a shock to LeBron, because it’s probably the first time the childhood prodigy has had his on-court ability called into question. No superstar is perfect. Over the years, every single individual to have the ‘best player in the NBA’ tag has had some type of flaw, some more than others. [caption id="attachment_1057" align="alignleft" width="221" caption="LeBron James seems content to defer the lead role to teammate Dwyane Wade (pictured) in the Finals."][/caption] Early in his career, Michael Jordan wasn’t a great outside shooter. He was also practically psychotic about winning, and thus not always a dream teammate. Magic Johnson wasn’t a great defender, nor was Larry Bird. Tim Duncan wasn’t always the most reliable free throw shooter, and what Shaq served up from the charity stripe was laughable. Meanwhile Kobe could be selfish, and only wanted to win on his terms. The list goes on. LeBron is no different; he, like the trailblazers before him, is not perfect. Yet LeBron’s biggest flaw comes with a twist - His biggest flaw is that he’s so damn talented. There are nights when he channels the best qualities of every NBA star. On any given night, you may witness him bulldoze his way coast-to-coast, with a rare combination of size and speed, eerily reminiscent of Charles Barkley, or hit open teammates with the frequency and flair of Magic Johnson. Other nights, you’ll see the self-titled King rebound like Dennis Rodman or block shots with the perfect timing of Bill Russell. Throughout his career, LeBron has shown brilliant ball-handling, executing killer crossovers better than Allen Iverson, or getting fouled and still hitting the shot like a young Shaquille O’Neal. Perhaps this is his greatest downfall. Having the ability to do anything on the hardwood. When you have all that talent at your disposal, how could you do anything but disappoint? When the ceiling on your potential is higher than any player that has come before you, you are immediately set up to fall short. In any given game, LeBron is expected to showcase all of those abilities. But because he has all that potential, yet couldn’t possibly always fulfil it, it’s difficult to get a true gauge on his greatness as a superstar. [caption id="attachment_1061" align="alignright" width="281" caption="Unfortunately for the Heat, LeBron also seems more than willing of deferring to role players such as Udonis Haslem (left) to help Wade lead his team to another championship."][/caption] So far in these NBA Finals, rather than take over with his scoring, he’s deferred to Dwyane Wade offensively, and, before his pitiful Game 4, concentrated on playing lockdown defence. It has meant that he’s been more Pippen than Jordan, and that’s simply not good enough for his critics. There’s no question that LeBron James is great, but he’s great in a way we haven’t really ever seen before. At the moment he’s somewhat of a ‘complimentary player’. But can you ever truly call someone who has led the league in scoring, and captured two MVP trophies, a complimentary player? Can you call someone who took over the Boston and Chicago series this year a support player? And how can I call an individual I named as ‘the best player in the NBA’ in my opening paragraph, a role player? How could that ever make sense? Essentially, with all his talents, he can fulfil any role his team needs, even that of superstar. And that’s what makes it hard to gauge his greatness, because true superstars are superstars all the time. LeBron’s statistics and achievements are already impressive and worthy of respect. Yet the majority of NBA fans won’t be satisfied with calling James an all-time great until he wins a ring. [caption id="attachment_1054" align="alignleft" width="226" caption="The aggression displayed by Miami's LeBron James (pictured) has all but disappeared so far in the NBA Finals"][/caption] But even that won’t silence some of his harshest critics who proclaim that even if he does win several championships with Miami, they’ll be tainted because he needed to join forces with Wade and Bosh to win them. Yet, that argument rings a bit hollow. If Cleveland had successfully signed Wade and Bosh last offseason, would any resulting LeBron championships have been deemed as tainted? Do Bird’s rings not count, because he had McHale and Parish? Has Magic’s legacy been tainted because he won with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy? In the eyes of his detractors, James’ biggest downfall seems to be that he needs help to win. But every other single superstar is in the same category – no one has won it alone. The other major knock on him is that he’s not as clutch as Jordan, most clearly evidence by his shocking fourth quarter play in these Finals, punctuated by Game 4’s complete disappearance. It’s hard to argue that someone is a superstar when they only score a mere 8 points in a Finals game. Part of LeBron’s problem is that when he gave people a reason not to like him last off-season, it opened the door for people to pick apart his game, instead of celebrating his greatness. Now, many are claiming that, despite the MVP trophies and potential rings in Miami, his legacy is ruined. Whilst that assessment is harsh, if that is the public's opinion and perception, it is also the reality. No matter how unfair. In which case, I refer back to the heading of the story. How do we rate LeBron James?