For most of the time that I’ve been an adult and a sportswriter, I have been asked the same question over and over and over.
But the answer I have always given may be about to change.
The question is "who do I think was the best basketball player ever?"
And always I have had the same answer. "Elgin Baylor or Oscar Robertson."
Now, in the face of what’s happening in the NBA Finals my answer may well change to LeBron James.
In all my years covering sports I have never, ever seen such a dominant, passionate, intelligent and resounding performance as he is in the process of delivering.
He is to men’s basketball what Serena Williams is to women’s tennis. Unbeatable.
Consider, first, the numbers.
Game one, lost by the Cleveland Cavaliers, he had 40 points 12 rebounds and 8 assists. Game two, won by the Cavs, he had 39, 16 and 11. Game three, also won by Cleveland, he had 44, eight and six.
But he is so much more than the numbers, as he will probably prove tonight when the two teams meet in game four oFor most of the time thf the finals.
James leaves no doubt in anyone’s mind that he is giving everything he has, every minute he is on the floor. It may not always look like it, but you can almost see the gears turning in his mind as he works through a situation and makes a decision about how best to attack things.
And attack he does. He looks like a tight end in football, big and strong and fast. Add smart and you have an amazing weapon.
It’s hard for any writer to come up with enough things to say about him. Perhaps the best way to grasp his greatness - why they call him "King James" - is to let the others who have seen him throughout his career, have their say.
Former Coach Paul Silas: "He's the quickest study I've ever been around. He knows immediately when he makes a mistake."
NBA coaching legend Larry Brown: "I watch him every chance I get. I'm a big fan of his – what he stands for, how he conducts himself, how he's such a team player. He tries to play the right way. We don't have enough of that in the NBA."
Former Bucks coach George Karl: "He's the exception to almost every rule. His maturity is the thing that's the most startling about him. His basketball sense has gotten him to where he is."
Mike Miller, who played with James in Miami and now in Cleveland: "The way I've seen him improve in just the two years I've been around him, I've seen the maturation the whole time, and it's a scary thought because it's not going to stop. It's a freight train right now."
Perhaps the thing about James that’s most impressive is how he conducts himself. He’s confident, yet modest. He doesn’t toot his own horn. He goes about his business. His flash and flair comes from his game. He doesn’t smoke cigars or show up at gambling meccas. He doesn’t lust for the spotlight. He is obviously very comfortable in his own skin.
Perhaps we should leave it to his mother, Gloria, to best capture the measure of her son.
"We’re best friends. I brought him up to be his own man, to make good decisions. He hasn’t let me down."
With a history in Milwaukee stretching back decades, Dave tries to bring a unique perspective to his writing, whether it's sports, politics, theater or any other issue.
He's seen Milwaukee grow, suffer pangs of growth, strive for success and has been involved in many efforts to both shape and re-shape the city. He's a happy man, now that he's quit playing golf, and enjoys music, his children and grandchildren and the myriad of sports in this state. He loves great food and hates bullies and people who think they are smarter than everyone else.
This whole Internet thing continues to baffle him, but he's willing to play the game as long as OnMilwaukee.com keeps lending him a helping hand. He is constantly amazed that just a few dedicated people can provide so much news and information to a hungry public.
Despite some opinions to the contrary, Dave likes most stuff. But he is a skeptic who constantly wonders about the world around him. So many questions, so few answers.