Misguided Confidence Or LeBron’s Teflon Turning to Tissue? | Indiana Pacers Rookie Bennedict Mathurin Busts Shots At King James

What do you call a rookie with otherworldly ambition? You call him Bennedict Mathurin as the Indiana Pacers’ newest addition has put the NBA’s only active player billionaire, LeBron James, on notice.

Mathurin should study the words of the character Omar Little from HBO’s “The Wire”: “If you come for the king, you best not miss.”

Mathurin made a move most rookies never would when he called out LeBron James in the media saying he is coming for the “King,” just prior to the 2022 NBA draft. What began as excited delirum now is beginning to feel like a straight-up hallucination.

“A lot of people say he’s great,” Mathurin said to the Washington Post. “I want to see how great he is. I don’t think anybody is better than me. He’s going to have to show me he’s better than me.”

At his Hall of Fame induction speech, Floyd “Money” Mayweather said that every fighter should feel like they are the best after the tears. That sentiment is omnipresent in athletics and used as a motivation to win against all odds.

There is such a thing as playing yourself before getting started in the big leagues, and Mathurin did just that.

According to his draft report, Mathurin is an intriguing wing prospect with the tools to excel at the next level, showing flashes of All-Star-level talent. Born in Montreal, Mathurin became the first Canadian player to enroll at the NBA Academy Latin America in 2018 before becoming a four-star recruit in 2020.

Next, Mathurin averaged 16.1 points for Canada at the 2021 FIBA U19 World Cup before returning to play for Arizona’s first-year head coach Tommy Lloyd.

He toiled in Tucson and had a solid freshman season. In his two years at Arizona he had a breakout 2022 season, totaling 17.7 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game over 37 games. Mathurin also hit 37 percent from three and 77 percent from the free-throw line.

His work yielded a Pac-12 Player of the Year honor and consensus second-team All-American accolades. Mathurin is now credited with leading the Wildcats’ massive turnaround as a team.

However, he is sizing himself against a former high school basketball phenom turned four-time NBA champion. Despite the current woes of his Los Angeles Lakers, James has made more fools out of his doubters than truth-tellers.

Despite the team’s deficiencies, James retained his stellar level of play in his 19th NBA season. Concluding the year with averages of 30.3 points per game, the 18-time All-Star delivered his highest output since the 2007–08 season: 8.2 rebounds and 6.2 assists in 37.2 minutes a night.

James has also mastered the NBA game on both the athletic and business side. Although he is a lightning rod of polarization, James has managed to become the heir apparent to the legacy thrones of Kobe Bryant and even Michael Jordan while still an active player. He plays the game not just well but to win, even when his team’s collective efforts do not deliver the results he seeks.

The same year the Lakers didn’t deliver a playoff run is the same year he financially surpassed his OGs like Lakers great Earvin “Magic” Johnson.

The 20-year-old Mathurin will have his chance to face the LeBron James Experience when the Pacers eventually play the Lakers. The 2022-23 NBA schedule is not public yet, but Mathurin has cued up a faceoff for the fans to, at a minimum, get curious about.

In the meantime, Mathurin should remember Omar Little, who in the end was taken out by what he least expected, a young up-and-comer.

Or maybe that is a lesson for LeBron.

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