I was going to take issue with your statement that Bron plays “without a soul” but I read through your whole post and I think I understand what you mean and I think you are on to something. You capture a weird dissonance that I’ve felt as a Lebron fan but have never been able to articulate.
From a fan’s perspective, there seem to be times when Lebron draws a line in the sand and expects everyone around him to rise to the occasion. It seems partially an act of self-preservation and partially an acknowledgement of his limitations as a human being.
If he is doing this, it’s hard to argue with because of the ridiculously high-level he maintains AND his superhuman durability AND the fact that he seems to be a great teammate. But as a fan, it often feels like he’s left something on the table from a competitive standpoint.
In a sense, there’s something almost imperious about his game, as though he has taken the “King James” moniker to heart. The irony in this is that Bron has a way of seeming detached from the game at times, even when he is dominating by any objective measure. To your point, it’s pretty hard to watch a guy get burned on defense as many times as Bron did in this year’s finals when it’s the same guy whose signature moment last year was The Block.
Maybe that’s the trade-off between Jordan-like maniacal pursuit of perfection which forced Jordan into two hiatuses (at least one of which was premature); and Lebron’s seemingly detached consistency/durability. Maybe Jordan had to pause because he burned out himself and everyone around him and maybe Lebron can keep going for another 5 years because he is more detached from the result.
If self-preservation is a tendency, it may be natural or he may have adopted the mindset after the first stint with the Cavs when he dominated individually but the team always seemed overmatched. I’d argue that the Cavs front office (and particularly ownership) has not done well to build around Lebron’s tendencies. They’ve done an adequate job and I think David Griffin was pretty good during the latter part of his tenure. But adequate is not good enough when you are dealing with a once-in-a-generation talent. How can you ask your superstar, who is already operating at an unimaginable level, to do more when you as a front office/ownership team are doing just enough?
I remember murmurs around the league that Bron’s relationship with Erik Spoelstra started on shaky ground because Spo has the temerity to call him out on his effort early in his first season with the Heat. If it happened, I’d argue that it was crucial to the Heats’ success, and that Spo was only able to do this because of the stability of his franchise, his confidence in his own position, and the fact that the team’s culture allowed for accountability.
The Cavs have never had this type of leadership and high-performance culture. Which is a shame for Bron.