I was surprised to find myself flooded with a wide variety of emotions when the Dallas Mavericks finally did close out the Miami Heat last night. I tried to protect myself heading into these finals by picking the Heat in six, but the truth is I wasn’t sure I was ready to see all that just yet. So initially, when it was Dirk and his Mavs left standing alone atop the NBA universe, I felt relief.
The relief soon shifted to moderate excitement though, and I flirted with the possibility of doing the JET around my living room as the camera caught Chris Bosh crying on the shoulders of Erick Dampier. Priceless, I thought, but I never got up. Instead I settled on sticking my arms out while seated on my couch, and kinda flew around like that past the pillows. Back up the Kleenex truck Coach Spo, I thought, it’s gonna be a long night!
After that I then felt stunned to a degree, no way I really thought the Heat would lose. Not the Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, and LeBron James Heat. That can’t really be possible, can it? No way, this is some kind of joke, only it wasn’t.
Once all that eventually passed, I watched Cuban passed that trophy to Dirk, and heard LeBron shortly there after remind me and all my friends from his press conference podium that we have to go to work today and he was way richer than we were. Fair enough, I thought, that you are. But you also do not have four, not five, not six championships either. He has zero actually so far; zero titles for King James and his band of Heatles. A 2-8 record in NBA Finals games, no rings in eight seasons.
It was at that point though, that I felt like the whole thing is just a real shame when you rewind back eight or even ten years and look at it. I don’t hate LeBron James as a person, I hate what he did this past summer, I hate the way he did it, but more than that I hate the way he gave up on himself. He is the greatest talent I’ve ever seen, no decision can ever change that. After entering the Association with more hype and expectations than any prep star ever in the history of organized sports, he seemed to meet each and every one of those for the first five years of his career.
He didn’t just meet those expectations either, he blew them out of the water. He made it appear that there wasn’t anything he couldn’t accomplish in this game. Nothing he couldn’t do. We believed first here in Cleveland that he not only could go down as the game’s greatest player, but that he would go down as such. Like for sure. Like stop telling me about Kobe and Wade, there’s one guy who’s that dude in this league, and he hails from Northeast Ohio. The rest of the nation soon agreed too, it was the consensus, he was the best. Only LeBron James himself never believed he was that good, and he still doesn’t. Which is the singular reason why he isn’t, never will be, and will continue to fail on the game’s greatest stage just like he did in this series.
The NBA world has spent the last couple weeks, and I imagine the next couple too, trying to put labels on what it is that’s wrong with LeBron James. Is he not clutch? Can he not close? Does he not have heart? Does he not know how to play off the ball? With his back to the basket? And on and on it goes. To me it’s more broad based and general than that though. He’s a front runner, who’s cocky as opposed to confident. He’s the greatest athlete you’ve ever seen when he’s on top, but if you get up on him he doesn’t believe he is good enough to come back and beat you. He knows which players he can physically dominate, he’s confident in that sense, but if he feels he’s equally matched he wants to go away and let someone else do the heavy lifting when winning time comes along. Which is why he passed to Donyell Marshall, why he quit against the C’s, and why he went to Miami in the first place anyways.
I’m happy LeBron can’t rub our noses in it now to be sure, but a decade ago the story was never supposed to end like this. Not like this, not for him, not for us, not for anybody. Regardless of if you want to say he’s eight years in, he’ll play another eight, and anything can happen, to be clear the story did end on Sunday night when LeBron James came up short as a member of the Miami Heat. The LeBron James Story as the one chosen to save basketball, you can close the book on that now. He’s Vince Carter 2.0; that’s it and that’s all.
That budding superstar who we saw four years ago in Detroit score twenty-five in the fourth quarter to shift the ECF back to Cleveland is gone. There’ll be no encore performance from that guy. That show was before he was due on the NBA’s biggest stage. He was ahead of schedule then, there was no Cavs Index, he had no haters, there was no pressure, everybody still believed in him. He just played that day. He let his overwhelming strength, ability, and decision making dominate a team of championship caliber men. He was the best in the world that day.
LeBron James has taken his talents a long way from that game four years ago though. The pressure is very much there now, his legacy in shambles, the haters too loud to concentrate, and there’s no longer a fan base blindly behind him. LeBron James is a punchline now, and looks to be a guy who never lived up to his true potential. He looks like a coward, he sounds like a wimp, and I never thought I’d see LeBron James grow up to be a guy who looked or sounded like either.