Warriors Face Le Bron James
In early 2003, I was chatting with Garry St. Jean, then general manager of the Warriors, and he told me, “There’s a high school player out there that you’re not going to believe. He’s going to be a star in this league from day one.”
The player, of course, was Le Bron James. If I’d been paying attention I would already have known about him because he’d gotten national publicity. But when I left Watsonville and came to The Chronicle in 1963, I had left high school basketball behind. The only exception was, after a year’s campaign by my friend, Sam Spear, I went to see Jason Kidd and wrote after that game that Kidd would be an even bigger star in college and the NBA when he got teammates who were prepared for his amazing passing skills.
But James was on an even higher level, an amazing athlete who could have starred in football as well; he was all-state as a sophomore. The first time I saw him in an NBA game I saw some resemblance to Oscar Robertson, but he was four inches taller than Robertson and, of course, four years less experienced when he came to the NBA.
He has done nothing but add to his resume each year he’s played. He started with his home state team, the Cleveland Cavaliers – Akron is his home town – but became disgusted when ownership did not bring in enough good players around him to win a championship. So, he joined with Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade to go to Miami and make the Heat champions.
This year, he returned to Cleveland and, surprise, the Cavaliers are the Eastern Conference champions and facing the Warriors in the conference finals, starting next Thursday.
It’s an interesting matchup because the Warriors are led by Stephen Curry who was the league’s Most Valuable Player this year. Curry doesn’t have the strength of James but he’s an incredible shooter, hitting three-pointers from different spots, and his ballhandling and passing meet Globetrotter standards.
There is no question the Warriors are a much deeper team, and coach Steve Kerr can throw any number of combinations at James. Kerr is very imaginative and I think he’ll use every trick available to slow down James.
This will be a much different final than the last one the Warriors were in, their only one since coming to the Bay Area. That Warriors team, a very young one except for Rick Barry, was on a roll and the players for their opponent, the Baltimore Bullets, were stunned. I was at courtside for that one and I remember the defeated look the Baltimore players had. It was over quickly, in four games.
I’d expect this one to go seven games and be tight right down to the last whistle. I also expect the Warriors to win it. James will have to carry too much of the load himself and, ultimately, he won’t be able to do it. Even an athlete as great as James can’t do it all himself.
What do YOU think? Let me know!
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