I was fortunate enough to be a guest of Red Bull and attend their annual King Of The Rock competition, held on Alcatraz Island in the rec yard of the penitentiary, last weekend. This competition featured players from all across the world competing for $20,000 while attempting to determine the best one-on-one player was in the world.
Good times were had.
While watching this event, I encountered all types of players with a variety of skill sets. There were the smaller, quicker, crafty players. There were the rangier players with a deft shooting touch. There was the big fellas whose height felt like a cheat code as they wore down their opponents with their size.
Each player was fun to watch, but the man that won was large in height and in body mass and had a sufficient post game. Someone named The Beast from Inglewood beat a guy named De La Puente from Spain. All post moves everything.
This is relevant because, as you might recall, Michael Jordan was recently asked who would win in a game of one-on-one in a game between himself and Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and the current crop of NBA stars. MJ was dismissive of LeBron and gave back-handed compliments to Kobe, saying Kobe could possibly beat him because "he stole all my moves." Many have accepted MJ's answers as fact of who really is the one-on-one king.
Then, as if the basketball gods wanted to help MJ prove a point, video surfaced on Larry Brown Sports showing an early 40s MJ using and abusing then high-school senior OJ Mayo while at a summer camp. Mayo was trash-talking Jordan and Jordan probably gave Mayo what he had coming, but what was fascinating was the way Jordan eviscerated the young Mayo.
Yup, all post moves.
MJ bullied him. Backed him down, used his hind parts to clear space and simply elevated over Mayo. Well, he did that to everybody when he played, but doing it in his 40s reminded me that in a game of one-on-one, the game is different. There is no space to operate, there isn't anyone to give you the ball, set a screen or get your rebound. It's just you and your opponent. That's it.
And that's why LeBron James isn't losing to anyone in a game of one-on-one.
This isn't me preaching the gospel that is the greatness of LeBron James. It's that nobody beats LeBron because nobody is as physically dominant as him. (Sidenote: There is this side narrative involving centers and one-on-one, and while they would have the best chance of winning. But we're not talking about them right now. I'm looking at you, Earl Barron.) I probably wouldn't feel as comfortable saying this four or five years ago, but with an evolved post-game and a willingness to play inside as much as he does now, I can't see LeBron losing. Yes, Kobe and Michael's post-up game is better than LeBron's, but they can't get as close to the rim. They can't rebound and defend quite like him. Oh, and they're not 6'8 and 250-plus pounds either.
Its the unpopular opinion to pick LeBron to win in an ultimate game of one-on-one, but after seeing the biggest, strongest and baddest man in the paint win an actual winner take-all, one-on-one scenario play out in front of me at King of the Rock, it's clear getting easy buckets and being able to prevent them is what matters most.
You all can have who you want, I'll take LeBron. Now, let's see if we can get everyone to meet back at Alcatraz for the all-time mythical one-on-one tournament of legends. That would be awesome.
God bless Jason Maxiell - Because we all need Horace Grant 2.0 in our lives. Yes.
I'm not petty but ... Can this Larry Sanders vs. Brandon Jennings back-and-forth become a legitimate beef? Please? Aside from the fact that a beef would make Milwaukee vs. Detroit an a semi-desirable game to watch on League Pass, we need more beef in the NBA.
A happy hour drink recommendation: A Dark and Stormy. I had my first Dark and Stormy at a bar in Cincinnati called Japp's. (Yes, the name of this place sounds like a derogatory slur toward the Japanese, but its a family name, I promise.) It was then that I knew that unicorns were real and that my dream to still make it in the NBA could happen. A combination of rum and ginger beer? Who is the genius that thought of that concoction? Earl Barron? Who knows. All I know is that it's delicious.