NBA Finals 2012: Why Game 5 Win Will Give LeBron James Much Deserved Respect

Dan KuklaCorrespondent IIIJune 21, 2012

LeBron James may look like a villain now, but he is about to get a huge image makeover.
LeBron James may look like a villain now, but he is about to get a huge image makeover.Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Winning Game 5 of the NBA Finals tonight against the Oklahoma City Thunder doesn't actually change LeBron James, but it will sure seem that way.

He will still be the same player—the one more talented than any other on Planet Earth.

He will still be the same person—the one whose worst crime is The Decision as opposed to legitimately serious off-court issues.

Winning his first NBA title, however, changes how the rest of Planet Earth views him.

Somehow, James is still trying to shake the label of "not clutch." Rather than appreciate his full-game dominance, fans and media prefer to nitpick at isolated fourth-quarter failures.

ESPN's Tom Haberstroh explains why that conversation is about to end. Bleacher Report's Joshua Carroll explains why James was more clutch than Dwayne Wade well before any of that even happened.

Somehow, James is also still trying to shake the label of "villain." Everyone seems to wish he was more like Kobe Bryant. Now there is a clutch role model. When people look at Bryant's fist full of rings, they quickly forget that about his off-court trouble that was much more serious than poor form.

James certainly could have used more tact in communicating his decision to the Cleveland Cavaliers. But let's not confuse personal ambition with evil.

Bryant isn't the only NBA player that receives a free pass on past mistakes because of a title. Heat teammate Dwayne Wade watched all the criticism for his team's struggles this postseason sit squarely on James' shoulders. In the end, however, it was James asking Wade for more help as the "villain" found himself in an all too familiar position to the one he thought he left in Cleveland.

Dirk Nowitzki is just the latest example of a player's whose career image received a complete makeover by winning a title.

For LeBron James, however, winning a ring won't inflate our image of him beyond reality. If James leads the Heat to a Game 5 victory, we will finally appreciate the player he has always been.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz writes that James is on the eve of his coronation.

"James has been the constant. This postseason he leads Miami in minutes, field goals, free throws, points, offensive rebounds, total rebounds, assists, and steals."

When King James starts wearing a ring, he will be one step closer to taking his talents to the Hall of Fame.