Now that he has traveled, with kleig lights ever shining down upon him, from The Blunder to the Plunder of Thunder, we/I are/am left to take a look at his game, his place in the pantheon of professional hoops and, to be fair, ourselves/myself as much as He Who Would Dare Be Dubbed King.
LeBron James, heralded as The Next Great Thing, at the tender age of what, 13, 14, now that his adopted Miami Heat beat Oklahoma City, has his first team championship trophy. Not only is LBJ an MVP, he’s a champion. Anointed at an early age, it took him 9 seasons to win his first title at the age of 27. (For comparison, Michael Jordan, the consensus best player ever, won his first title in his 7th season, when he was two years older than LeBron.)
So we, the sports public and naysaying media nabobs, are forced to confront our own expectations, projections and disgruntlement.
Have we been too harsh on James? Has our continuing disdain over his abdication from Cleveland, his vanity TV show, “The Decision,” and his declaration of 8 or more titles in the offing upon arriving in South Beach, been ill-advised, knee jerk, unfairly unrelenting or all of the above?
Well, I’ll say this, a sense of remorse has ravaged through the sports writing universe like a tornado across the Oklahoma plains. (It must feel to OKC like they didn’t make it to cover when the Heat blew in.)
Truth is we of the media are far more inclined to go Jim Rome on a jock more than we’d like to admit. We set ‘em up. We knock ‘em down. With relish. And, as we are/I am doing now with Tiger Woods, we/I are/am reluctant to let ‘em back up.
I’m as guilty as the next guy. I’ve been all over LeBron since The Blunder that was “The Decision.” It was so vain, he probably thinks this column is about him. It was Cult of Personality at its very worst. But, frankly, a logical development, given how David Stern’s league pushes the publicity of players over teams.
And — in retrospect, where we’re now finding compassion to help assuage our guilt — we should have recognized that LeBron’s a good guy. You don’t read about his entourage taking out guys in South Beach bars. You don’t see his photos in the gossip pages. He gets along with other players in the league. (For Comparison again, Michael Jordan, allegedly a beloved icon, is by all accounts is a 1st rate schmuck and compulsive gambler. His hubris compelled him to the delusion that he could make it to the bigs in baseball. His Hall of Fame acceptance speech was as arrogant and lacking in humility as any ever uttered.)
So, I’ve been waiting here in line, while many of my brethren before me have eaten crow. Now I’m stepping up for my serving.
James was The Deal in the playoffs. When he needed to score, he scored, When he needed to rebound, he rebounded. When he needed to pass, he passed. He willed Miami to the the title. Good for him.
Yes, I can pick nits and play what if?
He fouled Kevin Durant not once but twice on the same play at the end of Game 2. If the foul had been called and Durant made the FTs and OKC went on to win, it might — operative word: might — have made it a different series. Sweeping the middle three at home, Miami would still have had to win one in Oklahoma City.
I believe they would have done it. They didn’t have to. The zebras swallowed their whistles and the Heat flew home even.
So, again, good for LeBron. Those titles are never a given. Wilt, Elgin Baylor and The Logo never won a title and they constituted the biggest of any Big 3 ever.
How many more can/ will LeBron James win? Well, that’s why they play the games. So we can find out.
It’s going to be just as interesting to see what happens with OKC? Will Durant bulk up and toughen up? Will Westbrook become willing and develop the facility to make the right decisions every trip down court? Will James Harden not choke next time?
In other words, will the Thunder learn the lessons of their loss like LeBron did? Will they put their nose to the grindstone and hone their skills? Will they, next year or the one after or sometime in future, be able to sleep as well as LeBron James is these nights?
– Seedy K