Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Emergence Of a King

I am not a LeBron James fan. I have despised him since he came on the scene as a high school senior trying his best to be like Michael Jordan. I loathed him in Cleveland and when he made The Decision to "Take My Talents To South Beach." I flat out don't like him. I used to not respect him. I used to think that he had taken his talents for granted and wasn't trying to become the ultimate player he had been hyped up to be. I used to think that he was an immature individual who was content with riding the coattails of Dwyane Wade to a ring and playing second banana. Now, I think LeBron has turned the corner.

LeBron breezed through the first round against the Knicks this year and was never really challenged. Yes they lost Game 4 in New York but that was a mere anomaly. The Heat quickly came back and dispatched the Knicks in Game 5 and moved on to play the Pacers. It was in the Pacers series that the new LeBron emerged. His team was down 2-1 heading into Game 4. Chris Bosh was out with a strained abdominal muscle and all the momentum was with Indiana after the Pacers destroyed the Heat 94-75. LeBron came back in Game 4 scoring 40 points, grabbing 18 rebounds, and dishing out 9 assists. LeBron looked like he finally got what he was supposed to do: Play like a king. Lebron scored 30 and 28 in the final two games of the series. The Heat moved on to the Conference Finals to face a resurgent Celtics team that felt like this was going to be there year.

The Heat came out in typical Heat fashion in Games 1 and 2. They won impressively and didn't really look like they were going to have to try too hard to win the series. Then Game 3 in Boston shocked the Heat. The Celtics came out playing like a team possessed and built a 20-point lead. The Heat bench was able to cut the lead down to 10 by the final whistle but momentum had shifted. Game 4 was a dogfight and when it came down to the final shot, the ball was in Dwyane Wade's hands, not LeBron's. Dwyane missed the shot and the series was tied 2-2 heading back to Miami. The Heat shockingly lost a third game in a row to the Celtics and were down 3-2 heading back to Boston. Most people, including myself had written off the Heat and declared the Celtics the winner. I believe the only person who had any confidence in the Heat was the, "Good Job! Good Effort!" kid. Then Game 6 happened and LeBron played the best game of his career.

Going into Game 6 LeBron knew that this game was going to define his career and either silence his critics or give them more ammunition. LeBron came out on fire and never looked back. He finished with 45 points and 15 rebounds. He was not going to let anybody decide that game for the Heat except for himself. He played the greatest game of his career in a seminal moment. He finished off the Celtics with an amazing 4th quarter where he scored 9 of the Heat's 28 4th quarter points. LeBron was determined.

LeBron has been playing at an elite level every game of the Finals. He is averaging 29.3 points, 10 rebounds, and 6 assists per game. He is using every skill he has to dominate and show the young Kevin Durant how it is done. Barring the Thunder getting new life and figuring out how to shut down LeBron, this may be the beginning of a historic Heat run that could back up Lebron's promise. I am a LeBron hater. Always have been and always will be. But I will say that with this amazing playoff run, he's starting to earn my respect. Let's see if he can do this on a consistent basis and become the greatest player of his generation.

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