By Dennis Glade
The NBA Finals are about stars, and boy do we have a star-studded matchup for this year’s championship round. The Miami Heat will be in for another long series when they meet the San Antonio Spurs — a team going for its fifth title since 1999.
The Spurs haven’t gotten good ratings in their last three championship victories over the Nets, Pistons and the LeBron James-led Cavaliers. Most of the country’s casual basketball fans will tune in to just root against James and the rest of the Heat, which makes this year’s Finals one of the most compelling in many years.
NBA championships are decided by stars, and there is no bigger star in the basketball world or any sport for that matter than LeBron James.
James is on the verge of shutting the door on any criticism he may have had about not being able to lead a great team to wins in big playoff games, if that door hasn’t been shut already. Since Miami lost the 2011 Finals to Dallas in Game 6, James has dominated the NBA and he now stands four wins from back-to-back championships.
The ironic part about James ascent to the conversation as one of the best players in the history of the NBA was helped by the meltdown against the Mavericks when he averaged only 17.8 points per game and managed only eight points in Game 4.
James has publicly said after the 2011 Finals when the entire country except for South Florida got its wish with a LeBron collapse, he started saying to himself, ‘It’s just basketball.’ That mantra seems to have calmed James down and allowed him to embrace the incredible basketball talent that he possesses.
If you think about it, “The Decision” might be the best thing that ever happened to James and his legacy — I know that sounds crazy. When he left Cleveland after a dismal 2010 Eastern Conference semi-final against Boston, James was surrounded by people telling him how great he was, which led to the Jim Gray-Maverick Carter-ESPN production on the night of July 8, 2010, which now lives in infamy.
“I’m taking my talents to South Beach,” James told the nation.
What followed was James taking a brand he had built since he first appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated as a 16-year-old and stomped all over it.
He instantly became the most hated athlete in the world, which led to a complete collapse in the finals against Dallas, a performance never seen by a superstar of his magnitude.
Eight years into his career, a legitimate question was raised, which seems outrageous now, if LeBron would ever win a title.
James started smiling more, enjoying the game he loves, and the rest is history. The interesting part of this whole situation is that the 2011 Finals will be the one thing James’ detractors can use against him in historical comparisons to Michael, Kobe, Magic and Bird, but it’s also the singular series that could spur him on to being one of the greatest basketball players of all time. He’s a talent, unlike any we have ever seen and probably won’t ever see again. James doesn’t seem to have any noticeable flaws in his game.
I’m not a James fan by any means. He complains too much to the referees for my taste, and he flops far too often for a player of his talents.
I’ve been called a “hater” by numerous Heat fans, but the honest truth is if you can’t appreciate James as a basketball fan, then you are doing yourself an incredible disservice.
Defense’s used to be able to force him into shooting long jump shots, until he made 40 percent of his 3-pointers this season. James is the smartest player or coach on the court at all times, and 95 percent of the time it’s not close.
James holds the basketball world in the palm of his very large hands; the only question is what he will do next to amaze us.