Thanks to LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, and every other superstar in the NBA, the best basketball league in the world treats one of the most significant facets of the game as a luxury.
There was a time when the likes of Karl Malone and Patrick Ewing were overlooked for their defence because of their monstrosity on the other end of the floor and also because there were too many elite defenders in the league in the 90s.
Look at the top-10 scorer of the 90s decade, and you’d see Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson, and Scottie Pippen. Each one of them was also one of the top-10 defenders in the league at the time and quite probably of all time.
These days if elite scorers could play a decent amount of defence, we go bonkers. That’s one reason the league has become a more free-flowing offensive game than the much more entertaining tight match-ups of the 90s and 2000s.
Capable defenders like LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard are spoiling the NBA. Giannis, AD, and Embiid are a small hope.
LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard are the most extensive examples of the superstars who play defence when they want, mainly in the Playoffs, that too when their teams require it the most.
Thanks to NBA Reddit, we got ourselves an interesting subject to discuss. We have all seen how Leonard can be the best defender on the court when he won the Finals MVP over the 3 core players in the San Antonio Spurs championship run in 2014 and the 2019 Finals against the Warriors.
The same goes for LeBron James for most of the Finals he played in his career. Ask the Warriors of 2016. But those two superstars of LA would never guard the opposition’s best player when there’s anything less than Larry O’Brien on the line.
So Lebron, instead of actually trying to play defense and block the shot, decided to flip when he got SLIGHTLY pushed. This is why the NBA ratings are declining. Play the game, stop trying to get calls.. https://t.co/ZCFq1LnfUd
— Mike Sullivan (@msully5433) January 16, 2020
For a recent example, take Devin Booker and Jayson Tatum’s case. Both of them playing great defence was overwhelming for their fan base. None among Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Luka Doncic, Ja Morant, Trae Young or any other present and future stars of the NBA feel responsible enough to play defence.
And I think it is purely fans and NBA media’s fault not to hold them responsible and act surprised when they do actively participate in the defence. Like it’s not their job. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid, and Anthony Davis are a few of the players who also make defence their priority.