It took nine years, but LeBron James is now an NBA champion. To many, it was long overdue. To people such as myself, it’s only the beginning LeBron cementing his legacy as one of the game’s all-time greats.
For years, LeBron has been seen as a physical and statistical anomaly. He would get his triple-doubles, he led the league in scoring, he score 50 points in Madison Square Garden while finishing that same game with a triple-double and he’s even done something no one else in the NBA’s history has done, average 27/7/7 for his career. Now, he not only seems to be that same statistical anomaly but also a man who finally gets “it”.
The idea of getting “it” is so overstated and redundant in many arguments regarding one’s desire and ability to win a championship, but LeBron’s case has long been different.
To many, LeBron winning a championship opens their eyes to the fact that he’s the game’s best player, a triple-double waiting to happen and a man who is more “clutch” than many give him credit for. Aside from his shortcomings in the 2011 NBA Finals and a Game 5 stinker in the 2010 Eastern Conference Semis, LeBron has been one of the best playoff performers in NBA history.
He averaged 36 points a game in his first playoff series ever (Which he won), he’s scored 45 points in a Game 7 versus the eventual NBA champion Celtics in 2008 (of course meaning he lost), he’s led a YMCA quality team in the 2007 Cleveland Cavaliers to an NBA Finals berth (albeit they were swept), and he led the Cavaliers to 127 wins in his final two year there (while winning consecutive MVP honors). LeBron didn’t just start showing up in the playoffs, he just happened to finish the deal.
That’s the beautiful thing about watching him in these past 2012 NBA playoffs. His scoring average was only the third highest in his playoff career, he actually averaged a career-low in postseason assists, and he didn’t even go to the free throw line at a higher clip than we’re accustomed. The difference in this LeBron James and the statistical anomaly that we’re used to was his demeanor that exuded a man tuning out the masses and just playing like the best player in the world.
In Game 1 of the first round versus the Knicks, LeBron debut a mouth piece with the Roman numeral version of the number sixteen. He was tired of hearing that he was coming up short, so all he was fixated on was getting sixteen wins before anyone else in these past 2012 Playoffs. That’s the only number that mattered to a man who effortlessly accounted for 40 points, 18 rebounds and 9 assists in a Game 4 victory versus the Pacers in the Eastern Conference Semis, something only Elgin Baylor duplicated in the 1961 postseason. LeBron wasn’t focused on scoring 45 versus the Celtics with his Heat down 3-2 in the Eastern Conference Finals, he just wanted to get to sixteen wins. Even with that focus on getting to sixteen, LeBron managed to score those 45 while grabbing 15 rebounds as he shared a statistical feat only Wilt Chamberlain can stake claim to.
The intriguing part of LeBron James getting over this hurdle isn’t the fact that he avoided collapsing under some fabricated pressure that his cynics continue to create, it’s that he stopped caring about what everyone wanted to throw at him.
We’ve long known that he has the strength, speed and skill to be whatever he wants to be. To many, he won’t ever be comparable to Michael Jordan. To some, he may not ever even be Magic Johnson. To me, that doesn’t matter.
The truth is that we’ve never seen a player like LeBron James. He’s built like Karl Malone, can pass like Magic Johnson and can score with the ease of Michael Jordan. You can question his mental fortitude all you want, but how easy do you think it is to be LeBron?
When your every move is hounded, analyzed and torn apart, it’s hard to simply log onto most social networking sites. LeBron takes that unjustified vitriol and turns it into a triple-double to win an NBA championship.
So sure, LeBron took nine years to win a championship. At the same time, he’s still only 27. There’s no need to reach for what age Jordan was when he won his first title, it shouldn’t matter. No need to ask what everyone else in the NBA is going to do in order to combat a potential Heat title collection, it shouldn’t matter. No need to ask much of anything, to be honest.
That’s why LeBron finally gets “it”. His career doesn’t end tomorrow, next week or even next season. This is just the beginning for a man who can literally do anything he wants to do on the basketball court. He’ll defend your best player (point guard through center), he’ll score at will, he’ll pass wherever and whenever, and he’ll do any and everything a player can ever be asked to do.
That was the best part of watching LeBron this past postseason, he literally did whatever he wanted. I think his favorite part was leaving his skeptics speechless.
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