Why You're Missing Greatness If You're Still Rooting Against LeBron James
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sport
But if you're still rooting for James to fail, you're missing the basketball greatness that defines his game.
While leading his team to a 103-100 overtime win, James finished with 32 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds. After entering the fourth quarter of Game 6 trailing the Spurs 75-65, he scored 16 points during the final period specifically to force an extra session.
Despite that, though, if Kawhi Leonard had made both of his free throws late in regulation, the narrative describing James' performance would be different.
It would also read differently if Ray Allen had missed the corner three that inevitably tied the game at 95.
Fortunately for James, however, the events surrounding his performance went the way of the Miami Heat. But if they hadn't, even though each example was beyond James' control, it would still be a mistake to overlook all that he's accomplishing.
James has now recorded three triple-doubles during the 2013 playoffs. He is one win away from his second NBA championship in as many seasons. He has also appeared in the NBA Finals during each of the last three years and is a four-time regular-season MVP.
If the Heat go on to win Game 7, James—who is averaging 23.3 points, 10.7 rebounds and 7.5 assists—is the most likely candidate for NBA Finals MVP.
If you're still blindly rooting against James, though, hoping for every miss to redefine his legacy, you're missing a unique brand of basketball greatness yourself.
Rooting for failure is a distraction
I'm not suggesting that every NBA fan outside of San Antonio and Miami should arbitrarily support LeBron James and the Miami Heat. That would be ridiculous and contradictory.
There are plenty of reasons to root for Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs.
What I am saying, though, is that the fan experience will be more enjoyable if the hoping-LeBron-fails-dynamic is removed from the equation.
Attempting to rewrite James' legacy on Twitter with every missed field goal is a mind-numbing cliche at this point. It also takes your attention away from the performance playing out on the NBA Finals stage before us.
The "bad games" LeBron's had are still pretty good
Following the Miami Heat's Game 3 loss to the Spurs, James was getting crushed by fans and media alike for his performance to open the series.
He deserved some of that criticism, of course—after shooting 33.3 percent in Game 3 for example and failing to score 20 points in the series by then—but at the same time, he was still relatively productive.
In those first three NBA Finals games, James recorded a triple-double in Game 1 and a double-double in Game 3.
He was averaging 12.3 boards and had collected as many as 18 prior to Game 4. He was also averaging 7.3 assists and 16.6 points.
Though he wasn't posting "LeBron James' numbers" by any means, he was still doing enough to put himself in position to win his second-consecutive NBA Finals MVP should the Heat prevail in Game 7.
The ultimate victory would be to defeat the MVP at his best
In Game 7 of the 2008 Eastern Conference Finals, the Boston Celtics defeated LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. What made that victory so memorable for Celtics fans, however, is that James did not fail even in defeat.
In an epic duel with Paul Pierce, James scored 45 points in a 97-92 Celtics win.
Pierce, meanwhile, simply played well enough for Boston to overcome that effort from James by hanging 41 points on the board himself.
Rooting for the San Antonio Spurs to beat James at his best—like Pierce and the Celtics did in '08—is one thing. Rooting for James to stumble and the Spurs to win by default is something totally different.
The former requires an element of greatness we all look to sports to provide, the latter does not.
Greatness in its prime
LeBron James is in the prime of his professional basketball career right now.
He wasn't this good with the Cleveland Cavaliers, and he wasn't even this good in 2010-11 with the Miami Heat.
His mental approach to the game is maturing, and his physical gifts are being further maximized in the process. On his way to a fourth MVP in 2012-13, for example, James set career-highs in field-goal percentage (56.5), three-point percentage (40.6) and rebounding (8.0).
But whatever your personal feelings are towards James, there's a certain respect we owe ourselves as fans to greatness in its prime.
It doesn't come around often, but when it does, it's worth the time to just sit back and appreciate it. Even if you don't feel compelled to cheer.
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