Epic with a Chance of Legendary: LeBron James' Game 5 Performance

ChrisContributor IMay 16, 2011

LeBron James collapsed to one knee following the Miami Heat's Game 5 and series-clinching victory over the Boston Celtics Wednesday night.

Cameramen flocked like scavengers to the emotionally broken down megastar, hoping to capture an image that will one day be a staple in what is sure to be a Hall-of-Fame career. An image that one day may be synonymous with one of the most transcendent performances in NBA history.

The key word, however, is one day.

After witnessing LeBron James personally and poetically devour the Boston Celtics at the end of Game 5 on the one-year anniversary of the Cleveland-dubbed "Quitness Day," in reference to James' lackluster Game 5 performance against the Celtics last May, one can't help but wonder what does it all mean?

Let's start with the performance itself.

Following a Game 4 overtime win in which LeBron hit several key shots to help lead the Heat to victory, he was only to be outdone by himself as he personally sent the defending Eastern Conference champs packing after they had done the same to his Cavaliers a year before.

Player-to-team vengeance? Check.

James scored the final 10 points including two crucial threes in the face of arch-nemesis Paul Pierce, who has taken on the task of guarding LeBron in each of their playoff matchups, and took a direct shot at LeBron, or as direct a shot can be using Twitter, after the Boston Celtics defeated the Miami Heat earlier this season, tweeting, "It has been a pleasure taking my talents to South Beach." 

Player-to-player vengeance? Check.

For years, sports pundits have been outspoken about LeBron's lack of "clutchness." Although the claim consisted of no statistical backing the rest of the media didn't seem to care.

The whispers of LeBron not being able to hit the big shot or win the big game grew into deafening screams as the year progressed and media outlets across the country would make headline news of each and every one of LeBron's late-game shortcomings.

On Wednesday, LeBron made the biggest shots, and lead his team to the biggest win of their season—up to this point at least.

Clutch reputation redemption? Check.

After embracing Dwyane Wade in celebration, LeBron went onto parade his respect for the Boston Celtics in his post-game interview as well as his post-game presser.

"Great team," he stressed. "Got a lot of respect for that team."

Anybody who watched the interview could see lucidly that LeBron's Celtic-gushing was genuine, heartfelt and humbling. Above all else, however, it was classy.

Ever since The Decision, LeBron has been under a magnifying glass in terms of his reputation as a person, and not completely unjustifiably. This night, however, LeBron showed a tremendous amount of respect for the game and for the Celtics, and it has not gone unnoticed.

Reputation redemption? Check. (Or at least a good start.)

LeBron's performance was epic, from the shots he made to the emotion he spewed.

That he would silence his critics in so many different ways about so many different aspects of his life on the one-year anniversary of when his reputation as a person and player started to free-fall, is simply poetic.

Which brings us back to the question: What does it all mean?

LeBron checked off a lot off boxes with his Game 5 heroics, but the biggest box off all remains empty. 

This game will go down as a defining moment in LeBron's career, regardless of what happens in the future. 

But if LeBron James and the Miami Heat can bring home the Larry O'Brien trophy this year, his masterful performance in Game 5 will transcend epic and become legendary.

Upon winning a title, fans of LeBron, much less the NBA, will look back and cite this game as the turning point in his career. If LeBron ends this season with a ring, this game will go down as one of the greatest performances in NBA history.

So what does his Game 5 performance mean? We'll have to wait to find out.