The career of LeBron James has led to this moment. His journey from Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary to Cleveland to that Boys and Girls Club in Greenwich, Connecticut to South Beach has led to this moment. Two games on his home floor, two wins from an NBA championship, with his destiny in his own hands. It’s time for the most talented basketball player alive (not the greatest per se), the man proclaimed to the world as “King James” to grab his crown as one of the great players that the sport has ever seen.
This is the moment that was destined for LeBron James since he broke onto the national scene as a high schooler. This is the moment that was destined for him as the next Jordan, Magic, and Oscar. The moment that The Decision was all about. This is the chance for LeBron James that he hoped for when he spoke those fateful words about taking his talents to South Beach. These are the games that he so desperately knew he needed Dwyane Wade by his side and not Boobie Gibson. He needed the help of buddies Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, Pat Riley, and everything the Heat offered. He needed to embrace his new role as a villain throughout the season. He needed to win that championship by any means necessary, even if it meant forfeiting any chance at being MJ or being greater than MJ and admitting he couldn’t do it on his own. That’s why he left Cleveland and the Cavaliers… for a moment like this.
And yet, leading up to this moment in these Finals approaching Game 6, King James has been nothing but a mythical figure from years past and King Shrinkage has taken his place in that #6 jersey. In five games of these thrilling NBA Finals, LeBron James, the next MJ/Magic/fill-in-the-Hall-of-Famer-here has scored 11 4th quarter points. He’s been outscored by Udonis Haslem in the 4th quarter. When the moment has been the biggest, James has been the smallest. He’s made more news for his off the court hijinks throughout these Playoffs than his transcendent on-court performances. From calling a reporter’s question retarded to prematurely celebrating in front of the Dallas bench to childishly mocking Dirk Nowitzki, this is the indelible mark that James has left on the 2011 postseason so far.
It’s near impossible to believe that 4 years ago, LeBron James had perhaps the greatest clutch performance in NBA Playoffs history. 48, 9, and 7 in Game 5 of the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals in Detroit, 29 of his team’s final 30 points and the last 25 all scored by him. To this day it’s still the most mesmerizing masterpiece in sports I’ve witnessed. That was when it looked like LeBron James could win a championship or seven, break the Cleveland sports jinx, fix the economy, become president, travel through time, and do any seemingly impossible feat all on his own.
And now, he’s a shadow wearing a headband scoring half of those points in five times the amount of clutch game action during these Finals.
But, this moment before him can erase all of the criticism about shrinkage, his off-court image and actions, The Decision, and his terrible play in the 4th quarter of the 2011 Finals. LeBron James can erase all of that with two clutch games carrying the Heat to the title they promised last Summer. We know that LeBron James is certainly capable of doing just that. He’s capable of having a Detroit revival or making the big shot or dominating these games. He’s fully capable of putting the Heat on his back and winning Games 6 & 7 and lifting the Larry O’Brien Trophy for the first time. That’s why his disappearing act is so disappointing – we know he’s capable of so much more.
LeBron James has lived his basketball life for this moment. It’s up to him to claim it for his own.