But what they won’t be able to say is that he’s not an NBA champion. In the penultimate game of his NBA career, LeBron James put together the type of performance that reminded basketball fans why he’s the NBA’s most must-see player. He didn’t need to score 50. He just needed to play like he always plays; making the right passes, getting the important rebounds, and using his all-universe athleticism to get to the bucket when his team needed him to.
Kobe fans will say that he still needs to win four more.
(Forgetting that Kobe made it quite known that he would prefer to play in LA before he was drafted and played alongside the best player in the NBA for his first three championships.)
What James’ path to the NBA Finals (9 years after his senior year in high school) says is that it’s not easy. He was the most highly regarded number one draft pick ever, a can’t miss prospect if there ever was. But champions aren’t promised. They are made through hard work, determination, and a slight bit of luck. James’ maturation over the years solidified his overall goal; once thought to not have the Kobe-like killer instinct to work hard enough, he’s now 260 pounds of granite which allows him to be a runaway freight train. What was once a non-existent post-game has become a path to easy points.
Naysayers will say that he had to play with his superstar friends in order to win a ring.
(Ahem — Magic, Kareem, Worthy/ Bird, McHale, Parrish/ Jordan, Pippen, Rodman)
Was James given too much before he deserved it? Of course he was. But that’s today’s world. James has lived under a microscope since he entered the NBA. He’s been watched more closely than any athlete in our time. He’s made mistakes that have given people ammunition to pick on and at him. We like to knock those high on their perch if we perceive they didn’t earn their spot. But for one night, all of it is forgotten. Tomorrow, Cleveland Cavaliers fans can again blame him for leaving them high and dry even though their front office didn’t have the foresight to build the right team to win instead of trying to cater to his every wish. Winning would’ve kept LeBron in Cleveland. But instead, they traded for Antawn Jamison and Mo Williams. Compare those two players with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
The viewers say he’s not a clutch player.
(Except, according to 82games.com, his crunch time stats show him as nearly the same scorer in crunch time as Kobe Bryant with nearly 1/2 the crunch time minutes because what he does in non-crunch time minutes allows his team to coast more often than not. And this isn’t an anti-Kobe argument. It’s just a comparison since that’s who everyone compares him to anyway.)
His personality may not appeal to the masses. He may not be the most likable athlete on the planet. Yet, he’s the most important player in the NBA, not the most important player in the Q score league. You can NOT like him and still appreciate that he’s a special player. I root for him because I enjoy greatness and history. He’s the best player in the league and he finally proved it. His acclaim isn’t unjustified any longer.
When being interviewed after the game, LeBron said, “It’s about damn time.”
(You can nod your head. And we were all witness.)
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