The 45-point, 15-rebound masterpiece LeBron James hung on Boston was Mike-ish. In fact, that performance was better than Michael Jordan's 63-point game against the Celtics 26 years ago.
James shot better from the field (19-26 to 22-41), had more rebounds (15 to five), gave up less points on defense (he held Pierce to nine points—Danny Ainge had 24 points against the Bulls in 1986) and, most importantly, his team won. Mike's didn't.
Before you have a panic attack, I'm not saying James is better than Jordan. I'm saying that one game was better than Jordan's first signature game. Check out the spectacular highlights here:
We were all witnesses for one of the single greatest postseason performances in history. When it's all said and done, win or lose in Game 7, James still won't get the love he deserves as a player.
James is the poster-child for damned if you do, damned if you don't.
He may be eternally convicted and punished by the masses because of his talent, perception and his "decision."
No matter what he does, it'll never be enough. If he comes out and dominates the Celtics again tonight, you'll hear some true basketball fans give him props, but even they won't completely give it up to him yet.
He has to win a ring, and that is understandable. He is simply too great not to reach basketball's pinnacle.
At least for this group, there is a mountain top in regard to the task they place before James. For a much larger group, there is no mountain top; there is no single feat that will cause them to let up.
This group is called the haters.
These are the fans that were silent on Twitter as James repeatedly bludgeoned the Celtics on Thursday night. These are the fans that still uttered baseless criticism at James, when the fan in them should have been recognizing a truly amazing moment for the sport.
Just watch as some idiot fan pours beer on him as he walks off the court:
The hate runs so deep they could not separate their feelings of disdain from logical hoops thinking. This is a shame, and it's also why James can't win tonight, even if he technically does.
If the Heat win, these folks will immediately adopt the Thunder as their team of choice. This is called the "anybody but LeBron" mentality.
He has become such a symbolic figure that the feelings he evokes go beyond basketball for many, and unfortunately, I believe this group makes up the majority.
I predicted the Heat would defeat the Thunder in the NBA Finals at the beginning of the season. I'm sticking to that prediction.
I'd be lying if I said I haven't had my doubts here and there.
I openly root for LeBron, and to reiterate a point I made on Twitter Thursday night: I have never wanted one man to prove so many people wrong in my life. In this, I realize the group that I want James to thwart will never bow down, even when they should.
If he attains the ultimate goal, the victory must be found in the truth of his accomplishment, not in the perception. Because the unfair reality is that is a battle he will never win.
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