LeBron James and his merit are some of the most talked about subjects in the NBA. The man billed as "The King" and "The Next Michael Jordan" is consistently under the microscope because he has yet to win an NBA championship.
LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade took their 2010 free agency and established the Miami Heat that we know today. We are still watching the results of this decision play out. Howard Beck of The New York Times wrote of the Miami Heat unveiling in 2010: "Everyone saw something: greatness, arrogance, self-indulgence, boldness, cowardice, pride, friendship, collusion, joy, cynicism, heroes, mercenaries."
As time has gone on, we have witnessed all of these characteristics within the Miami Heat team and also embodied in LeBron James. However, LeBron has kept the positive qualities that were evident in 2010 but lost some of the more negative ones.
LeBron has progressively transformed into a better player.
He was never unworthy of MVP awards, but he continues to impress and improve. Throughout the 2011-2012 playoffs, LeBron has already proved himself worthy of the postseason MVP award as well.
When power forward Chris Bosh went out with an abdominal strain, the Miami Heat were put in a tough position.
Bosh was their big man and a huge part of the team's winning formula.
The Boston Celtics tried to exploit this weakness in the Heat's lineup by double-teaming Dwayne Wade and therefore isolating much of Miami's talent, but LeBron and Wade have found it in themselves to step up with Bosh out and play like they aren't missing a huge part of their team.
One of the most common statements about LeBron is that he is the best all-around player in the NBA today. Indeed, LeBron is a multidimensional player.
Not to say that other postseason standouts aren't, because they are. However, as the postseason reaches its ending, it becomes extremely difficult to pick the best from the best of the best.
Being an all-around player is one area where LeBron excels more than others do.
LeBron is definitely one of the best playmakers on the NBA court.
Playmaking is normally a part of the point guard's resume, but LeBron utilizes his ability to make plays better than maybe anyone in the NBA.
This is what gives him the edge over guys outside the point guard position, like the Oklahoma City Thunder's Kevin Durant, who will also be vying for the postseason MVP prize. Durant is a great scorer but doesn't make plays the way that LeBron does.
Throughout the postseason, LeBron has averaged 41.7 minutes per game.
In an attempt to bring about a comeback, he played 48 minutes total on Sunday in Boston.
For over 40 minutes, LeBron plays to the maximum of his abilities and fights fatigue to win the game. LeBron might fall apart sometimes, but it's still more beneficial than not to have him on the court—even if he's exhausted.
The postseason has witnessed LeBron score an extraordinary amount of points.
There has been only one game in the 2012 postseason in which LeBron has scored under 20 points. His postseason average is just shy of 30 points per game—with 8.9 rebounds and 5.5 assists.
LeBron's 40 points in Game 4 against the Pacers round out a seriously impressive set of stats.
One of the best critiques of the Heat occurred when Chris Broussard said, during the NBA Sprint Halftime Show, that Miami wasn't really a good team.
They are an amazingly talented team, but they play like a group of individuals. In the last handful of games, they have changed it up.
It's very common for a team's best player to refuse to pass the ball—think Kobe Byrant. However, individuals can't win team sports.
When LeBron passed to teammate Udonis Haslem, it demonstrated teamwork and awareness of the game. In the fourth quarter of a tie game with less than a minute left, LeBron knew that he was going to be guarded the hardest.
Haslem was having a great game, LeBron was being tripled-teamed and it was the unselfish choice.
The clashes between Dwayne Wade and LeBron are pretty evident. Wade has spoken openly about how there are times when both he and LeBron would attempt to win by themselves.
When Wade, Bosh and LeBron banded together in Miami, it was as friends. However, in basketball, the teammate/friend relationship can turn ugly, for example Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant. There has been speculation that things could turn very ugly for LeBron and Wade.
Yet, just the opposite has happened.
In the postseason, especially with Bosh out, Wade and LeBron have learned to work together. They trust each other more, and they have played better together, resulting in better basketball.
Whether intentional or not, LeBron had somehow become one of the most hated athletes on the planet.
Meanwhile, the NBA pushed other stars to represent the league.
Today, we watch a new LeBron James—a LeBron that reads The Hunger Games in the locker room, a LeBron that tweets a memorial to Trayvon Martin and a LeBron who posts videos thanking fans for MVP awards.
LeBron is beginning to grow on people again. He is becoming more and more likable.
Does a championship player need to be likable? No.
Does the Most Valuable Player in the NBA need to be likable? Yes.
A huge part of an athlete's value is as a role model and ambassador. The league needs to draw attention towards players who can sell kid-sized jerseys and star in sports drink commercials.
LeBron has been the top defensive performer throughout the entire postseason and earned his place on the NBA All-Defensive team.
He's played especially good defense against Rajon Rondo, who has been playing insanely good basketball, stepping up to the plate and keeping the Boston Celtics alive.
LeBron found leadership not by single-handedly leading the Heat but by learning to share the role with Dwyane Wade.
In an equal partnership, they've found a balance and a structure which have led to the best results they've had as a team.
Is LeBron a natural leader? Maybe not.
Are LeBron and Wade a natural team and equal partnership, even though their abilities aren't completely equal? Most definitely.
In the series against the Indiana Pacers, they found their niche.
Throughout his career, LeBron has put in a lot of effort on and off the court to make it to the finals—such as leaving Cleveland for Miami, a move that he took a lot of backlash for.
In this postseason, he has consistently been a top performer. With LeBron on the court, the Heat are plus-8.9.
When LeBron accepted his third MVP award, he was joining a special club—a club that includes Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan and a club in which he is the only member without an NBA title.
There is huge pressure for him to win that title this year. For a guy that normally doesn't withstand moments of high pressure well, he is doing a great job this postseason.
When LeBron is at his best, Miami plays on another level due to his unique abilities.
His athleticism allows him to play to an extremely high level. He is dominant, complete with skill and speed. When LeBron's talent is matched with effort, he can play on a level that no one else can.
LeBron has never been classified as a "clutch" player, but with a few exceptions, he is no less a clutch player than the rest of the NBA's roster.
Regardless, he is still well above average, and his defense is outstandingly clutch.
Saying LeBron isn't clutch is more perception than reality.
LeBron is younger than a lot of people realize because he has been around for so long.
He is still doing a lot of astonishing things, whether or not they are recognized as such.