2011 NBA Playoffs: LeBron James Silences Critics with Game 5 Performance

Doug GausepohlCorrespondent IMay 11, 2011

BOSTON, MA - MAY 09: LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat reacts to a call in the first half against the Boston Celtics in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Semifinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs on May 9, 2011 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.  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 Elsa/Getty Images)
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As Miami Heat star LeBron James sank clutch three-pointer after clutch three-pointer in Wednesday's Game 5 against the Boston Celtics, it relieved 10 months of feeling the weight of the world on his shoulders.

That weight was self-inflicted, of course.

He decided to make a spectacle of his free agency by creating a live television program to announce his decision to sign with the Miami Heat.

He decided to abandon his home state's basketball team, leaving it a shell of what it had been since they drafted him in 2003, going from 61 wins in LeBron's final season with the Cleveland Cavaliers to 19 in their first season without him.

Over these past 10 months, he's taken more criticism than most athletes face in a whole career.

He was criticized for believing he could win a championship by assembling himself with two other All-Stars in Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, while filling in the rest of the space with spare parts on the free agent market.

After a rather slow 9-8 start in the first 17 games of the regular season, sports analysts across the nation were wondering if the new threesome in South Beach was going to be a bust.

A bust it was not, however. They skyrocketed up to the second seed in the Eastern Conference by the end of the season, blazing by the Philadelphia 76'ers in the first round of the playoffs, lining themselves up to face the Boston Celtics in the second round.

Fast forward to tonight, where he put a trademark on the game, and on the entire series. The game was tied at 87 with 2:10 remaining when James would hit a fade-away three from the corner.

As the ecstatic fans erupted in the American Airlines Arena, James stood and glared at the Celtics bench directly across the court.

He'd put the game away 90 seconds later, with another three-pointer slightly to the left of the paint. He stood there again, breathing heavily, with the frenzied crowd serving as a background to the moment.

The expression on his face was the epitome of focus and determination.

As much condemnation as LeBron James may have received in the past 10 months from millions of people on this planet, watching those long three-pointers rattle through the hoop—watching the clock of the Boston Celtics' season run down to zero—had to erase a lot of that.

Remember, the Celtics were supposed to be the one team that could completely stand in the way of the Miami Heat and a championship ring.

Now, LeBron James has exorcised his demons and eliminated the Boston Celtics while doing so. He stands just eight victories away from the NBA Championship many guaranteed he would never see.

He silenced the critics on this night, that's for sure. That's what great players do.

That's what, may I say, championship players do.