King James takes crown for the best athlete ever

By Rich Mayor

“I think campus is sick,” my roommate said Tuesday night.

I’m far from immune. For the past week, crawling from my bed to my computer has been a chore unlike any other. I’ve had chills like Kate and Leo after the Titanic sank. I’ve had hot flashes like a woman in menopause. I’m pretty sure my blood has been replaced by a syrup (what up Weezy) of orange juice, Robitussin and NyQuil. So to everyone on campus that has been battling sickness recently, you are not alone.

Yet, I know of a person who battles sickness every day of his life and loves it; his name is LeBron James. The guy is ill.

This leads me to a realization I’ve come to recently, one that may produce a downpour of disagreement and debate on me, but I’ve just got to say it: LeBron James is the greatest athlete ever born.

Now let me explain – my definition of athlete, in this sense, is the most “athletic” person ever. Focus on the word athletic. One whose size, speed and leaping ability, coupled with the nimbleness of a much smaller man, combines to form, to put it bluntly, a “freak.” LeBron James is a freak.

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I realize he hasn’t won any NBA Championships (yet). I realize he’s only been in the association for five years. I realize we’re talking about going against hundreds of years of documented athletic achievements. Yet, I’ll stand my ground firmly – after all, that’s my job.

This realization was sparked by a debate between my roommates and I a few weeks ago. Granted, we’re 61 years old between the three of us, thus, we never had the pleasure of seeing Willie Mays roam the outfield, never got to see Mickey Mantle hit a ball out of Yankee Stadium and never got to see Red Grange, Gale Sayers, Jesse Owens or Jim Thorpe (to name a few).

LeBron doesn’t athletically hold a candle to these greats, an old-timer might say. To which I’d respond, “Does your candidate weigh as much as a collegiate offensive lineman, with the height of an NBA power forward and the speed of a runaway locomotive?” I think not.

The Feb. 2 issue of Sports Illustrated featured King James on the cover, with the words “The Power of LeBron” next to a side profile of his face. The article, written by Chris Ballard, attempted to put into words the kind of athlete James is.

From that article: “Last summer Idan Ravin, a Washington, D.C.-based trainer whose clients include New Orleans Hornets point guard Chris Paul and Denver Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony, worked out James and was struck by how quickly he covered ground. ‘Most players can go full speed from baseline to baseline in somewhere between 11 and 14 strides,’ says Ravin. ‘LeBron covers that in nine or 10.'”

Baseline to baseline, for reference, is 94 feet.

His vertical was 44 inches in a pre-draft camp six years ago. James believes he can get a foot higher than that jumping off one leg – and his estimated weight is around 270 pounds.

Recap: the guy is 6-foot-8, 270 pounds. He covers 94 feet in nine or ten strides. His vertical, with a running start, is over 50 inches. Hey LeBron, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey called; you’re due back by 6 p.m.

Seeing his bizarre entry into the dunk contest next year – which, in my opinion, rivaled Joe Namath’s sloppy request to kiss Suzy Kolber during an ESPN sideline interview six years ago – only increases my interest. He’s going to take on Dwight Howard and Nate Robinson, and I expect him to take the contest to an entirely new level, not unlike Vince Carter did in 2000.

But until then, we get to enjoy watching this still-young man mature into something sports has never seen – not even in my childhood hero, No. 23 for the Chicago Bulls.

Giving a nod to the State Farm commercial in which LeBron becomes a Cleveland Brown, can any athlete in history be so realistically pictured dominating multiple sports? Imagine him running down a liner in the gap and robbing a homer that would be halfway up the Green Monster. Imagine him punishing receivers dumb enough to come over the middle on him or going up and catching anything thrown his way as cornerbacks half his size just look up in awe. Imagine him driving a golf ball 350 yards. Imagine him spiking a volleyball. Imagine him checking somebody into the boards.

I bet you laughed at none of those.

LeBron isn’t going to blur the sporting boundaries like I believe he could, but he will continue to push the envelope for what is humanly possible on the basketball court. From the SI article: “Even James can’t help but marvel at his potential sometimes. ‘If I’m just getting my man-strength now,’ he says, ‘I don’t want to see me at 32.'”

Nike’s campaign last season summed up LeBron perfectly, encapsulating his age, athleticism, personality and potential in only four words:

We are all witnesses.

Rich Mayor is a junior in Media. He can be reached at [email protected]