LeBron James made news this week when he told the Miami Herald’s “Heat Check” blog that he no longer views Paul Pierce (or anyone else) as his “individual rival.”
On the surface, this seems unfortunate: “Analysis of individual rivalries” ranks among “debating the list which players we trust down the stretch,” and “applying shifting, unclear, & inconsistent criteria to determine how important a championship is to every individual player’s legacy,” as the favored narrative devices of deadline-rushed, half-baked sports columns across the country.
Well, fear not columnists! While LeBron v. Pierce may no longer exist as a means or context to lazily frame your broad and ever-morphing positions on basketball’s greatest talent, that doesn’t mean he is left without any conversation-worthy rivalries. In fact, many of LeBron’s most “legacy-defining” duels have yet to be settled. Here is a rundown of some of the key LeBron rivalries I’ll be monitoring most closely over the coming season.
vs. Euler’s First and Second Laws of Motion: In 1739, the 18th century Swiss mathematician and physicist Leonhard Euhler postulated two theories that have become core to our understanding of motion on a continuous scalee
- Internal forces, between the particles that make up a body, do not contribute to changing the total momentum of the body
- The rate of change of angular momentum about an axis is equal to the sum of the external moments of force (torques) about that point.
Entering his 11th season, we all know that until LeBron disproves at least a few of the fundamental laws of the physical universe through some sick nasty slamma jamma dunking, he doesn’t belong in the same conversation as Jordan. To get over the hump and show that he has ice in his veins and wants the ball in his hands down the stretch, he needs to build off his science-bending momentum from last year.
vs. Androgenic Alopecia: LeBron James is balding. Standard genetic male-patterned balding. This raises a couple of issues. First of all, bald is Jordan’s thing. It’s as much as part of his legend as the tongue wag, the sneakers, and the wild and possibly dangerous gambling stories. Second, LeBron is less “Your Head Is So Shiny and Smooth” badass cool-bald than “Max from Accounting” frumpy-bald. Over the next decade, as his androgenic alopecia reaches its prime, we’ll really learn whether LeBron is a gym rat who hates to lose more than he loves to win. The best always are. Is he a primetime performer?
vs. Homeland Season 3, The Grand Budapest Hotel, the new Childish Gambino album, & other major pop culture events: Homeland season 3 is terrible. Just an abject, utter mess. It has “jumped the shark” if the shark were the shark from Deep Blue Sea and the jump was with Derrick Rose’s new & improved vertical. Then there’s The Grand Budapest Hotel! Did you see the trailer?? Ralph Fiennes in the role of a lifetime! I lol’d during the trailer and the set is so charming! It just makes you wanna go to Europe, ya know? Then there’s the new Childish Gambino album. I mean….if the Instagram explosion told us anything, it’s that we’re in store for more than an album that is going to make us bob our heads, it’s going to make us use them to think.
But here’s the thing. If LeBron really wants to prove he’s the G.O.A.T., he has to make all the stuff irrelevant. Because when you’re the G.O.A.T., the first rule of G.O.A.T.ness is that you’re not part of the water cooler conversation, you ARE the water cooler conversation. We’ll see if LeBron can prove himself by making everything else in our lives unimportant.
So, there you have it. Yes, perhaps LeBron has no individual rival these days. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have plenty to talk about.