LeBron James Finally Proves His Worth to Me: Requiem for a Pessimist
Ah, I remember January and February. There was a lot of strife here on the Bleacher Report. Words were said, opinions were given, and wars were fought; not with fists but with words. The topic: the legacy of LeBron James.
Go ahead and click on my profile. Go over to the "Praise for William Johnson" section. You'll see the words many people threw at me because I questioned the past of LeBron James.
Looked at it? Good. During my first few months here, I came under heavy scrutiny for my views on LeBron's James legacy SO FAR. But as I engaged many a thoughtful (and many an angry) discussion member here on Bleacher Report, I always held true to the theory that if LeBron James PROVED it to me, I'd believe it.
And prove what, you ask. That he could come up big for his team and close. As I wrote many times before, LeBron has two main problems, one of which, if you'll be patient with me, has been solved as recently as an hour ago.
The first, and likely never to be resolved, issue is LeBron's ability to lead a team as the alpha. His abilities have been remarkable for 47 of the 48 minutes allowed in NBA regulation but he has never been able to put the final nail in the coffin as the leader, despite talented teammates (go ahead, dispute it but you don't win Conference titles and 60-plus games multiple times by yourself).
This issue, I'm afraid, was moot when LeBron decided to take the easy way out and join forces with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. At that point he forsake all the enemies he had made and destroyed the competitive need to win the way so many superstars, many like the ones he claims to be like and wants to be, had.
The Miami Heat's matchup with Boston provided a lot of personal fodder for LeBron James' legacy but regardless of the manhandling the Heat did on the Celtics, it does nothing to resolve LeBron's still pending issues as a true superstar that transcends the game (i.e. Michael Jordan, etc).
I'd usually say "who cares" but James has anointed himself King and Chosen One and therefore had to live up to that expectation...and has failed. And unless he takes over another team as the alpha, he will never get a chance to prove he is, indeed, a chosen one.
That's why I can't get behind LeBron saying he formed the Big Three in Miami because of general manager moves the Celtics made. LeBron chose to form a super-team out of the need to succeed and cement his legacy in any way possible.
This has been beaten to death so I won't go too much further BUT it doesn't take a psychologist to know that LeBron knew he wasn't a leader. He COULDN'T get it done despite his talent. He needed to become the second fiddle, the Pippen to a Jordan. And if LeBron embraced that role, he could arguably be one of the greatest players of all time.
And just in time for the playoffs, LeBron embraced it. My respect level for James, which wasn't that high coming from me, rose when LeBron allowed another player, an alpha, to take over for him and let the pressure off of him. Wade had been the key to Games 1, 2, 3, and 4 of the Boston series.
However, and now we get to the second problem with LeBron's legacy, Game 5 was all LeBron. And while I, personally, will never get behind LeBron's lack of respect for his opponents and/or teammates (see '09 ECFs as an example), or his lack of competitive edge (see 'The Decision'), I will NEVER, EVER say LeBron can't close.
Because regardless of how much EASIER it is for LeBron to excel as the second fiddle to a better player in Wade, LeBron created his own drama with Boston, came up with lame but acceptable-for-him reasons to do what he did and to feel how he feels about Boston, and, in Game 5, put the pressure on himself and buried the Celtics.
In the grand scheme of things, LeBron beat a good team that was fading and had a better player making most or all of the key plays. But in LeBron's mind, he saw a roadblock and got over it. I have to say, when LeBron drained those multiple threes against the Celtics to basically ice the game against the Celtics, I found myself, for the first time since 2007, impressed with LeBron James.
That takes a lot for me. Many people have called me a LeBron "hater" because I saw the REAL LeBron James that many fans did not want to see and many Cult of LeBron members refused to even acknowledge.
And while beating the Celtics would have meant more if LeBron didn't crumble under the pressure and actually overcame the hurdle of Boston as the leader with Cleveland (a la Jordan vs. Pistons, Kobe vs. Celtics, etc), it means something to him and that's all that matters.
But one thing can't be denied. LeBron CLOSED the Celtics, regardless of age or history, in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semis. He hit key shots. He got key steals. And, for a change, with pressure on him (most of it he had created for himself), he won the game for his team. I got to give respect for that.
It's a long way to a ring but LeBron at least has that mental block off his chest. I expect him to return to his old ways again (when he hit game winners against the Wizards and owned Detroit in '07). The pressure, albeit falsely created by himself, is off. And now that he has Wade he really doesn't have to make up fairy tales about 'I needed to beat Boston by teaming up', etc etc.
He has accepted his role, for now, (though his classic LeBron turnover in Game 4 almost cost the Heat the game), and he has gotten over whatever mental block he had since the 2007 Finals.
Winning a ring won't mean as much for his legacy as LeBron took the easy way out. But you won't here another word from me, for now, anyways (if the close job he did on Boston is simply an exception and not the rule) about LeBron's ability to close.
Oh boy...I can hear the Cult of LeBron seething. I'm bracing myself for the comments.
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