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Will NBA Fans Embrace LeBron James as a Conquering Hero?

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - JUNE 14:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat holds his hand up late in the fourth quarter while taking on the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game Two of the 2012 NBA Finals at Chesapeake Energy Arena on June 14, 2012 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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Matt ShetlerCorrespondent IJune 21, 2012

In the span of 48 minutes of basketball Thursday night, Miami Heat superstar LeBron James has the chance to go from goat to hero as he can potentially capture his first NBA championship in his nine-year NBA career.

But while James is one win away from being vilified in NBA circles, how will the public perceive him?

Will he be embraced by NBA fans as a hero for finally climbing the mountain, or is the villain reputation LBJ built up over the past two seasons still fresh in people's minds?

One thing is for sure and that is the fact that once James wins a ring, the NBA fan will almost to be forced to give LBJ his proper credit, especially in the fashion that he's about to win that championship, averaging 30.5 points, 9.7 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 1.9 steals while shooting 50.1 percent from the floor for the entire postseason.

But while the diehard NBA fan will give James his due for finally getting the monkey off his back, for the casual NBA fan it probably won't be enough.

They won't see LeBron as a man who is in the process of putting together one of the best postseason runs in NBA history, but instead as the guy who turned his back on his hometown team.

Instead, some will see him as the guy who quit on his team in Cleveland, who's ego was so big that he had to announce his free agent decision on network television. 

Some NBA fans don't see the businesslike approach that LeBron has finally taken to the game and the way he's put the Miami Heat on his back and carried them through the postseason.

It's only been two years since James bolted Cleveland for Miami. Two years really isn't that long to make people forget how LBJ acted like a clown and failed in the clutch during his initial season in a Heat uniform.

But all of that is in the past now, and James is a mere 48 minutes away from proving all of the critics wrong.

The only thing left to say about James, should he win that ring, is that he's hands down the greatest player in the game today.

If he does, should he be embraced like a hero? Absolutely.

Whether people do or not is another story altogether.

Follow Matt Shetler on Twitter for news, reaction and analysis from around the NBA.

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