The James Gang is four victories away from realizing their goal of being NBA champions.
James has been blasted due to “The Decision” he made to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers. Now, he finds himself two weeks away from quieting his critics if he’s able to help the Heat hoist their second NBA championship trophy in five years.
Initially, I was somewhat critical of James for leaving Cleveland and for dogging it against the Boston Celtics last season in the playoffs. As a fan, I thought he should have stayed with Cleveland and finished the job like Michael Jordan, Isaiah Thomas and Larry Bird did with their teams.
Professionally, I get it. James fulfilled his contractual obligation. As a free agent, you are free to sign with the team of choice.
Now that James is in the Finals, has the time finally come for LeBron-haters to buck up and embrace his decision to leave Cleveland?
It’s not like James broke the law or took steroids. He fulfilled his contract and decided to go to another team.
From a historical point of reference, when Curt Flood made his decision to challenge Major League Baseball and take his case to the Supreme Court, his actions were deemed controversial. Even though he earned a lot of money, Flood proclaimed, “A well-paid slave is nonetheless a slave.”
As history would have it, Flood's activism was a catalyst for change few understood except him. With the passage of time, many now understand his vision as the results of his efforts are so ever-apparent.
Will a championship ring be enough to override the disdain James has suffered the past year?
When Cassius Clay proclaimed himself as “the greatest of all time,” many deemed him nuts. After Clay claimed the heavyweight championship of the world, changed his name to Muhammad Ali and joined the Nation of Islam in 1964, he became a threat and one of the most hated men in America.
In April of 1967, Ali was stripped of his title for his refusal to enlist in the Vietnam War. He felt it did not make sense to support a war which killed innocent people of color in the name of American democracy when he and others were second-class citizens at home.
Like Flood, with the passage time, Ali's actions were not only understood but embraced by many of those who once despised him.
James, like Ali and Flood, were vilified for something they deemed to be just.
With the passage of time Ali and Flood were embraced with a level of redemption and satisfaction. It still remains to be seen how James’ ultimate reception will be.
Before going any further, I am not suggesting James is in the company of an Ali or Flood. Such a comparison would both ridiculous and disrespectful. Ali and Flood pioneered efforts that served many as compared to James, who made a decision that merely benefited him.
In short, James is no Muhammad Ali or Curt Flood in the grand scheme of things.
The point I’m making is no matter how controversial a decision appears to be when it is made, typically with the passage of time, the decision-maker is rewarded with a measure of redemption for taking a path deemed inappropriate.
If James is able to win an NBA championship, would enough time have elapsed for him to be forgiven by Cleveland?
Would a ring vindicate him in the eyes of the LeBron-haters to at least respect his decision?
In all likelihood, one ring won’t, but it will at least elevate him to a level of greatness he seeks in being truly one of the game's greatest.
I believe enough time has elapsed—at least for me, it has—to fully embrace his decision to leave Cleveland and join forces with another top-five player to win it all.
This is the NBA we are faced with today, like it or not.
Personally, I would love to see Magic Johnson running the fast-break for the Los Angeles Lakers or Michael Jordan soaring through the air again, but those days are long gone.
This is a new era and the NBA is different. I guess the time has come folks to buck up and try to accept James’ decision, whether we agree with it or not.
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