I was flicking through channels the other day when I came across something called the NBA. I did a bit of research and discovered that NBA stands for National Basketball Association, which is apparently America’s version of the NBL. It was weird to watch at first (I’ve always assumed basketball is an exclusively Australian thing) but after a while I realised that some of the American players actually aren’t too bad. I was pleasantly surprised by this one guy who dropped 38 points and hit a game-winning buzzer beater — his name is LeBron James, and by their standard, he’s pretty damn good.
I never thought I’d say this about a non-Australian player, but here goes — I seriously believe this LeBron guy has what it takes to play on the biggest stage of all, the NBL.
It sounds crazy, I know. But hear me out.
LeBron stands at just over two metres — roughly the same height as Cairns Taipans player Lucas Walker, to give you an idea. His dunking ability is on par with the average NBL power forward, and he’s no pushover in the paint. He kind of reminds me of a young Mitch Creek. On a purely physical level, he matches up with the big boys Down Under.
As for LeBron’s skills … well, he’s no hack. He’s averaging 34.8 points per game so far in the NBA playoffs, and has registered seven double-doubles out of a possible ten. Should we take these stats with a grain of salt? Absolutely. But the point is, they provide an indicator of his ability relative to other NBA players. They also prove that he’s consistent, and consistency is vital for anyone hoping to hold their spot on a highly competitive NBL roster.
You might be thinking this LeBron guy sounds like a big fish in a small pond. Don’t get me wrong, I accept that there’s a big difference between playing in the NBA, where the stakes are low, and playing in the NBL, where even bench players earn enough to make a living. All I’m saying is that hypothetically, if there was an NBA player who could potentially make their presence felt in Australia, it’d be him.
Could he turn a game on its head like, say, Chris Goulding? Of course not. Could he crack a club’s starting five? I doubt it.
But could he, with the right guidance and a bit of luck, develop into a serviceable sixth man? Honestly, I don’t see why not.
At the end of the day, this is all just speculation. Most clubs probably wouldn’t be willing to take a chance on LeBron. How can anyone know for sure that he’ll be able to handle the pressure of playing in front of thousands, with his performance broadcast all over the country exclusively on pay TV? It would be an enormous step up for someone who’s only ever played in the NBA. Many coaches would prefer to play it safe by signing a born-and-bred Australian who’s cut his teeth on junior interstate tournaments, even if it means using up a bigger slice of the salary cap.
So will he ever get the call-up to the NBL? I guess only time will tell. But regardless of what the NBL thinks of LeBron, he enjoys plenty of support from the tight-knit basketball community in America. His US fans keep likening him to someone called Michael Jordan, who is apparently held in high esteem over there. I imagine he’s the equivalent of our own Andrew Gaze — the greatest, at least by their standard.
And who knows … maybe one day we’ll be comparing LeBron to Andrew. In the world of basketball, anything’s possible.