The Finals Through Five: An Ode to LeBron

Stephen Curry returned to MVP form on Sunday night like only he can, quietly obliterating Matthew Dellavedova on his way to 37 points.

That was fun, but this is not about that. I want to talk about LeBron James.

For starters, I am not a LeBron apologist, nor am I on the James bandwagon. I hated “The Decision” (even though it raised over $6 million that was donated to charity), it bothers me that there are fans who burned LeBron’s jersey 5 years ago who are now sitting court-side at NBA Finals games, and I think LeBron is far too wrapped up in creating his own narrative as the Greatest Of All-Time. So I am not a LeBron fan; I’m a basketball fan.

What we are currently witnessing LeBron do on a basketball court is nothing short of inspirational. Even though he’s enjoyed a Hall Of Fame career and certain top-ten all-time status two glaring questions remain. Have we ever seen LeBron play this well? And why do so many people seem to hate LeBron James?

In regards to the latter, it’s obvious that anyone great at pretty much anything will receive derisive opinions. In regards to LeBron, most basketball fans either worship his kingliness or have seen their championship hopes mangled by his giant hands. But, if you’re not a Bulls or Celtics fan, then you probably don’t deserve to abhor LeBron.

Wherever I go on the internet, there’s a huge faction of LeBron naysayers that follow. They call him names like LeBitch and LeChoke (super original, I know) and say that he’s not clutch and needs help to win championships. Have you ever tried to win a championship by yourself? It’s fucking hard, even for the best basketball player in the world. Michael Jordan had two Hall of Fame teammates and a great cast of rotation players in Chicago, just like LeBron James did in Miami.

It would be awesome if everyone would take a few minutes off from incessantly typing absurd, grammatically incorrect sentences to just sit back and watch what James is currently doing. LeBron is essentially taking on the Warriors, a historically great two-way team, by himself. He is currently averaging 45.6 minutes, 36.6 points, 12.4 rebounds, 8.8 assists and 1.2 steals per game. That felt like a misprint even while typing it.

We haven’t seen anyone other than Shaq come close to individually dominating a finals like this since Jordan, and this is coming without the Cavs’ obvious second and third best players. It feels inevitable that every time he has the ball in his hands, LeBron will score or create an easy bucket for a teammate. James just became the second player to ever drop a forty-point triple-double in the NBA Finals, accounting for 70 of his team’s 91 points (77%). The only other person to do so? Jerry West in 1969, the only player to ever win Finals MVP and still lose the series.

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Yes, LeBron is my finals MVP. And he should be yours, too. The burden he is carrying for this Cleveland team is unprecedented, exhausting and honestly, at times, hard to watch. Cleveland’s offense is so bad and clueless without LeBron on the court that David Blatt can only afford to rest him with roughly 30 seconds left in the first three quarters. The only other person on the roster somewhat capable of creating his own shot is J.R. Smith, which are words no contender ever thought they’d be able to say.

If the Cavs had Kyrie and Love healthy instead of LeBron, this wouldn’t have even been a series. Instead, LeBron has dragged a team of aging veterans, undrafted free agents, former Knicks and even one Canadian into an insanely competitive, extremely entertaining NBA Finals series that will last at least six games. At first people were wondering if the Warriors were overrated, but what what we were actually seeing was LeBron James being the only capable thing of slowing down this two-way juggernaut.

I could go on and on about the greatness we’re witnessing, but it feels redundant. You should get the point by now. We’re simultaneously witnessing one of the best individual performances in the history of basketball and the legacy of a legend unfold. So stop tweeting about LeBron’s cramps (has anyone ever called him LeCramp? Probably) or saying he doesn’t deserve a max contract on Facebook (I actually saw this comment the other day), and just enjoy what he’s doing. You don’t have to love LeBron, or even like him. But his greatness is undeniable and the more time you waste pointlessly smack-talking him the less time you’ll have to appreciate what he’s currently doing for the game of basketball.

No, he is not Michael Jordan. And that’s perfectly ok. Jordan was a different player, in a different era of basketball with different teammates, opponents and responsibilities. LeBron is just LeBron, nothing more and nothing less. He is great in his own, distinct way. The comparison isn’t important. What is important, however, is that we appreciate his greatness instead of deriding it. Because in the same way that there will never be another Jordan, there will never be another LeBron either. If we don’t appreciate what he’s doing now, by the time that fact actually sinks in, it will be far too late.


USA Today Sports – Kyle Terada

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