Those that know me know I am not a LeBron James fan, I can’t help it. I took heat growing up because I wasn’t a Jordan fan either. We like who we like plain and simple and I don’t and didn’t care for either of these two but respect is respect and I have to give both players theirs. Here’s why for LeBron.
Last night LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers accomplished something I thought they couldn’t do when the playoffs started, they won. On paper, to start the season they easily looked like the team to beat but inconsistency then injuries hit and I felt they didn’t have enough to get the job done. Anderson Varejao went down and their low post game started to suffer but in came Timofey Mozgov. They needed better wing defense and scoring so management went and brought in JR Smith and Iman Shumpert. While plenty of talk was surrounding Ray Allen and if he would come out of his retirement for one last shot at a ring with LeBron, it wasn’t clear then but it is now that he was not needed. They just had to learn to trust one another.
When the playoffs began they faced a gritty Boston Celtics team that put up a good fight but it wasn’t enough as the fell 4-0. Their next matchup was against Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls in what seemed to be the end of the Cavs run in the playoffs. Kevin Love was gone and the pressure was squarely on the shoulders of LeBron and unproven playoff player, Kyrie Irving to carry the load against the veteran Bulls. While each team traded jabs, LeBron was not going to let his team fall as the Cavs escaped with a 4-2 victory. Next up in the Eastern Conference Finals they would go against the top seeded, 60 win Atlanta Hawks. For Cavs haters this was definitely the team that was going to send LeBron and Co back to the drawing board for next season. But when the Finals started, the Hawks forgot to show up and all they done in the regular season was for nothing. There are no trophies or rings given out until June and the Hawks must not have read the memo on that. The Cavs swept the Hawks and now have a shot at their first ever NBA title but first….
But first let’s take a moment to talk about the best player in the NBA. Yes I said it and for all the heat that I have given LeBron over the course of his career, watching him in the 2015 playoffs I have to tip my hat to him. Why? When Love went down the Cavs could have balled up like little b****** and used his injury as an excuse as they geared up for 2016 but he was not about to let that happen. He told the Celtics they were not ready as he averaged 27/9/7 and reminded everyone who he is. But his critics argued that was against the Celtics, not quite the battle-tested team they were to face in the Bulls. LeBron was up for the challenge. Against the Bulls he averaged 26/11/9 as he had to do a little more as the competition got tougher but he put the Cavs on his back and did what a leader is supposed to do. Against the Hawks he was supposed to run into a brick wall as the loss of Love and then Irving was supposed to finally catch up to the Cavs but LeBron put on his super-hero costume again and produced lines of 30/11/9 during the sweep.
What made me look at him differently this playoff run was that he was not supposed to make it this far. I know he can play ball, so can Irving but when Love went down I thought so did their chances of reaching the Finals. I heard all the” LeBron will have to average 50+ points for them to have a chance”, I didn’t think he had it in him. Yes he has two rings but it was with the help of two other great players. Yes they went to four straight NBA Finals in their time together but it was still with adequate help but now the help was injured. What was he to do? Looks like he is about to make a run for something bigger than a championship.
History: 5 straight NBA Finals is nothing to throw away no matter how many times he lost. It’s a great career accomplishment to get a chance to play in one, win one or more but to get to the Finals five years in a row is something special. Kobe, Jordan, Magic, Bird none of them has ever reached this feat that LeBron has and even his biggest doubters (myself included) cannot overlook this history making postseason he has embarked on.
Respect: He has not completely won me over and probably never will but I can admit that he has earned some respect from me this postseason. I am not one for the regular season hype, MVP races, best record and whatnot, they mean nothing in the grand scheme of things (ask the Hawks). You start the season with one goal and that is to win a championship. I was pissed when he went back home, he was now apart of another Big 3 with Love and Irving and I had to ask would he ever win a ring without being a part of some so called “Super Team”? But hey, no matter your teammates you still must go out there and produce. As I have stated before, with the injuries he needed to step up, he did. He did not look to get teammates involved as much as he did in the past, he just took over. One of my biggest concerns about him was his lack of a killer instinct and this postseason he shut me up. It’s not the 5 straight Finals appearances that has given him my respect, it’s the first one with this group of Cavs players that he led.
Legacy: The Chosen One, King James and any other name he was given or self-proclaimed is now officially on the line. Greatness in any sport is and always will be defined by championships. Before teaming up with Wade and Bosh the knock on LeBron was he didn’t have a ring, when he won the knock was that he needed help to get it done. This Cavs team started with a full hand, three of the top 1o players in the league, a championship was a no-brainier . If he can pull this off this will be ring No. 3 but it will feel like his first ever championship. Irving is still there and most champions always have that one-two punch so you cannot give him grief there but if Love was healthy then a championship was expected. This one will cement his legacy for a few reasons. He did it without Wade and Bosh, he rebuilt his image with the Cleveland fanbase that burnt his jersey years ago and rebuilt his image with the media as well as the NBA when he decided to come back. In Miami it was all fun and games with his two friends but this season was more about being a leader, teacher and winner. This is what a legacy is all about, winning, not scoring titles and MVP’s. It’s always been about the rings and those who say otherwise are the ones who don’t have any. Ask Kobe, Jordan, Jeter, Nadal, Mayweather, Gretzky or Brady what means more. Now we can finally add LeBron to this group.
What good is the MVP, Coach of the Year and a team having the best record in the league if you are sitting at home watching someone else hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy? If you are still playing for stats then you have not matured enough, ask LeBron when he stopped caring about those accolades. I bet it was right about the time he went on his 5 straight Finals run.