Seems like LeBron James isn’t that big a choke artist after all – huh? Nope, no matter what you think of the so-called “King James”, LeBron delivered in a big way in the last two games of the NBA Finals last week. He outplayed Tim Duncan, he outplayed Tony Parker, he outplayed everyone on his team and, in the process, he led the Heat to their second straight championship.
When I say led, I mean led. In the deciding Game 7, James scored 37 points, best on both clubs. He also grabbed 12 rebounds, had two steals, and four assists. All of which led the Heat on the night. A game earlier, in what was a must-win for Miami, LeBron scored a game-high 32 points, had 10 rebounds, 11 assists and three steals. Not bad numbers for a guy who supposedly chokes when the game’s on the line.
I’m not sure why James has turned into the public’s whipping boy. He doesn’t really say that much about how great he is, and he has shown in the past two years that he can deliver when the game’s on the line. I realize the way he left Cleveland put a sour taste in a lot of people’s mouths (mine included) but everyone makes mistakes and, honestly, most people want to get out of Cleveland. James jumped at the chance to play on a star-studded team, and play for championships. Since he’s joined Miami, he’s done just that, reaching the finals in all three years with the Heat,and winning them the past two. At the ripe old age of 28, James has two NBA championship rings. That’s a very respectable number for a guy his age, who, you figure can play at least another 10 years if he chooses.
Don’t get me wrong, LeBron James is hardly my favorite athlete on the face of the earth. In fact, I can honestly say that I wanted the Spurs to beat the Heat in game six, and also in game seven. I’ve never liked super-teams because they seem as if they are going against everything the team concept stands for. In my mind, teams should have one star, maybe two, and everyone else should perform a role that helps that team win. Michael Jordan’s Bulls were the perfect example of this. Jordan was the star, Scottie Pippen his wingman, Dennis Rodman got rebounds, John Paxson (or Steve Kerr) hit 3-pointers and Bill Cartwright took up space in the middle of the lane.
That said, James cannot help the fact he plays in a different era, when stars are much more likely to restructure deals so they can play on a team with a chance to win a championship. Given such an opportunity, do you have any doubt a guy like Charles Barkley wouldn’t have jumped at the chance to join Jordan’s Bulls? At least for one year, so he could get the ring every athlete covets? You know he would have, so there’s no way you can fault LeBron for what he did. He took the chance to play with Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh in Miami… and it has paid off for him, twice. James may not be the greatest person in the NBA, or even the most popular, but at this point, I don’t think it matters. Because he is the best player. He has proven it twice and he has the rings to show for it.