As the final buzzer sounded last night, capping a thrilling 104-98 Miami Heat victory in Game 4 of the NBA Finals, I took a good hard look at the team that stood triumphantly on the floor. Miami looked equal parts thrilled and relieved to be up 3-1 on a talented Oklahoma City team. Despite Russell Westbrook's outrageous stat line, and Oklahoma City's first hot start of the series, Miami made all the right moves down the stretch to secure the series-turning victory.
My eyes passed from face to face and I saw a team destined to win its second title in six years. The usual suspects were all there—Wade, Bosh, Chalmers, Battier, Haslem—wait, Haslem? Where was "The Chosen One?" Where was the man who promised to bring Miami "not one, not two, not three" titles?
Most of you already know how this story goes. Down the stretch, where closers close and winners win, LeBron James began to suffer the ill-effects of dehydration and was forced to watch the celebration from the sidelines.
I cannot question the amount of pain LeBron James was in last night. I'm no doctor, not that it would matter much from my vantage point 3,000+ miles from South Beach.
What I can question is LeBron James' heart. In a world so caught up in the right now, it's easy enough to forget Michael Jordan scorching the Jazz for 38 with a temperature of 102 degrees, or Willis Reed representing the Knicks in Game 7 with a torn thigh muscle.
Watching LeBron leave a three point game with less than a minute left because of cramps only makes me appreciate those other guys even more.
It may have been the smart call, with James becoming a defensive liability hobbling around on the court, but it wasn't the right call. Not for a man who constantly faces criticism for being "the best in the world for the first 46 minutes".
Instead of digging deep and finishing the game like the great ones do, LeBron opted to watch Mario Chalmers do his job for him this time around.
Despite another near triple-double, LeBron shrunk smaller than he'd ever shrunk in crunch time last night. While having a killer instinct has never been a trait LeBron has showcased in spades, he usually had the gall to at least finish the game. Even if it meant passing up a shot Kobe and MJ never could. Last night LeBron reminded everyone who he isn't, not who he is.
LeBron may finally get the monkey off his back this year. But fans of the game won't soon forget his latest disappearing act.
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