Don't let Game 1 of the NBA Finals fool you, LeBron James is the best basketball player on the planet, not Kevin Durant. While Durant may take second place in the MVP voting more than often in the upcoming years, it is far more plausible that Durant, and not King James, while be hoisting "not one, not two, not three..." NBA trophies. The simple fact is, the Oklahoma City Thunder are a far better team, and despite LeBron's individual talent, he cannot beat an entire team by himself.
Some might say, "Well what about when he took down the Pistons by himself?" That was different. Everyone knew that when Pat Riley brought in the Big Three this team was going to be about them, and that Miami would have little room to improve the supporting cast. But, hindsight is 20/20, and that was clearly the wrong decision. In acquiring LeBron James, the Miami Heat ruined Dwyane Wade, and in turn, LeBron's chances of creating a dynasty in South Beach.
LeBron gave up the spotlight in Cleveland to work with Wade as a duo, but Wade has spent so much time and effort in turning James into Batman and himself into Robin that while he is still capable of greatness, it is certainly fading. If the Heat can not overtake the Thunder in the Finals, even the most critical LeBron James skeptic cannot look at this year's run and say he is the man who shrunk in the moment.
LeBron has been spectacular essentially every time he gets on the court. Against New York he averaged 27 points, six rebounds and six assists. Against Indiana, 30 points, 11 rebounds and six assists. Against Boston, 34 points, 11 rebounds, and four assists. Beyond that, he has played defense at a level only rivaled by Kevin Garnett in these playoffs.
Furthermore, he has been clutch. It's not a word you hear often associated with LeBron, but there is no denying it this year. Game 1 of the Finals was the first game of the playoffs where he noticeably disappeared in the fourth quarter, and even if he had shown up Durant was not letting that game slip away.
But, on the biggest stages LeBron has ensured a Miami victory.
Down 2-1 to an emerging Indiana team that was gaining confidence he put in 40 points, 18 rebounds and nine assists. The stuff of legends. Against Boston, with their season, and a world of criticism on the line, LeBron poured in 45 dominant points to go along with 15 rebounds and five assists.
Wade on the other hand, while occasionally spectacular, has been surprisingly quiet. Wade averaged just 21, four and four against New York, 26, five and three, against Indiana, and 21 six and five against Boston. While on paper those may look better than Wade has played, the games have shown otherwise.
LeBron is clearly in charge of this team, and while it was once a dispute where the ball would go in key moments, that debate has been settled. Wade has come up small on numerous occasions in these playoffs and LeBron has been able to help Miami survive. Wade has scored 20 points or less in eight playoff games this year, including a five point performance against Indiana. With the supporting cast that LeBron has around him that is unacceptable from Wade if the Heat want to start winning now.
The biggest difference in Game 1 was the performance of each team's biggest stars. While Durant and Westbrook had 36 and 27 respectively, and both made clutch shots, only LeBron showed up for Miami, while Wade only put in 19 points, on 7-of-19 shooting and Bosh was hardly a factor.
If that trend continues the Heat will surely lose this series, and it may not even be close. And, if that proves to be true, the weight should fall almost solely on Dwyane Wade's shoulders, not LeBron's, if one man is going to take the blame.