I’m sure this will suffer a bit for having waited through the weekend to put them together, but some thoughts about LeBron and the Miami Heat winning the NBA title thursday night.
It was a lot to ask but still slightly disappointing that Game Seven didn’t live up to the standard set by Game Six. It wasn’t a blowout, but neither was it two heavyweights trading punches for 48 (or 53) minutes. There was tension, runs by both teams, and LeBron being huge as usual. But it seemed like the team that screwed up least would come out on top.
I was neutral through the series1, thus my thorough enjoyment of Game Six. But I do not get all the LeBron hate. I know, The Decision, blah blah blah. That was three years ago, he’s owned up to it being a dumb idea that what poorly executed, and the basketball gods served up some karma when they let they weaker Dallas Mavericks knock off the Heat in the Finals two years ago. I think he’s paid his bill, if one was even due.
I don’t understand why people let a poor public relations decision taint their view of LBJ so much. He has been about as close to model citizen as you can hope from a professional athlete/entertainer for his entire professional career. He is, by far, the best basketball player in the world right now. And he’s doing so in a way that no one has ever played the game before. You forget how ridiculous it is for a man his size to do the things he does on the court. Then ABC/ESPN shows a camera angle that puts his size in better perspective and I would be shocked that a guy as big as him was ripping around the court like a 6-foot point guard. Or jumping around/over other freakish athletes like they’re little kids. He’s equal parts Magic Johnson, Karl Malone, and Dennis Rodman. He is just on a completely different level than any elite player in the history of the game.
What makes LeBron truly special, though, is that you would absolutely want your kid to be like him. At least on the court2. Compare him to Michael Jordan, whose pathological need to win made him respected and feared but never loved by those around him3. Or Kobe Bryant, who was generally decent off-the-court4; but often a dick on it without any of MJ’s saving graces. LeBron manages to be both the best player and a great teammate. He gets slagged for not being selfish in crunch time, especially early in his career. But his game has always been about creating the best shot for his team. And if that means he passes to a guy with a better shot who is capable of hitting it, he will make that pass.
He has adjusted his game a little in recent years, cranking up the alpha dog elements a little. But he’s still a far better teammate than MJ or Kobe ever were. Sure, he’ll whine about calls from time-to-time, but show me an NBA superstar who doesn’t/hasn’t done the same. If those are the only flaws we’re finding in his game/makeup, we’re trying too damn hard to tear a man down instead of enjoying his sublime play.
It’s still too early to say whether LeBron will challenge Jordan as the greatest of All-Time. But he’s well on his way to at least getting his name in the conversation and has done so in a manner that is dramatically different than how MJ did it.
The other winter sport wrapped up last night as the Chicago Blackhawks scored two goals in 17 seconds to come back and beat the Boston Bruins for their second Stanley Cup in four years. I didn’t stay up to watch the end of the game but watched the highlights this morning. That ending was absolutely, utterly, completely insane. Hockey, when at its best, is an amazing sport. How about this nugget: since 2000, the Cup Finals have failed to go at least six games only twice. Well, not counting the year there were no Finals because of the dreaded labor dispute.
- I love LeBron and Mario, obviously, but dislike many of the other Heat players. I respect Duncan, Parker, and Popovich but have never had strong feelings either way about the Spurs. ↩
- As far as we know. I acknowledge he may have all kinds of skeletons in his closet. But they’re still hidden away and I won’t assume he is hiding something despicable/immoral that would drastically alter my opinion of him. ↩
- Granted, we thought MJ was pretty perfect when he was playing. So, maybe, perhaps, etc. in 20 years we’ll look back and say, "Man, LeBron wasn’t so great either, was he? ↩
- One major-ass exception, obvioulsy. ↩