After observing and contemplating the press clippings and reaction following Game 5, one would think the Miami Heat had already lost the 2011 NBA Finals.
Perhaps there are only a few Miami/LeBron James optimists left.
Maybe just a few fools that think James is confident and crazy enough to have manipulated the series to go seven games.
Apparently he felt as though after Games 1-3 that he could toy with and beat Dallas whenever he wished. Sort of like watching a buzz saw do its thing but knowing you have the power cord in your hand.
That may seem far-fetched, but there is no rational explanation for his play the last few games; it is something that defies logic.
How can a guy that has gotten to the basket at will his entire career suddenly find it near impossible to drive and finish? Even worse has been his inability to get to the free throw line, too.
This is not a result of the Mavericks defense. James has shown us for eight seasons that he can score on anyone—including defenses and players much better than what Dallas has.
So it creates a slew of controversy and questions regarding his disappearance from the series, especially during fourth quarters.
The complexities and greatness of his mind and talents are up for debate.
At the moment it seems the vast majority of the public have already labeled him as overrated and a choke artist.
Still, there are some like me who fully expect a 180 degree change, both in the way of this NBA Finals, as well as in the way LeBron James is perceived, interpreted and reported by the time tonight's game ends.
Will the real LeBron James please stand up?
Here now we will see the 10 reasons LeBron James has saved the best for last and will still win his first NBA title this upcoming Tuesday night.
In the wild, zebras are not known to change their stripes, but in the NBA it's actually quite common.
Face it, referees can't determine a game unless it's close. They can try to make it that way and sway momentum/emotions with their calls. Still if Miami handles Dallas like they did for 38 minutes in Game 2, there is nothing the refs can do to change the outcome.
Now here's the wild card: What does the NBA and David Stern want most?
Does the league want to see the new "It" team notch their first title and gear up for a possible dynasty run? Or would they rather see accomplished veterans such as Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd, Shawn Marion and Jason Terry win their first title ever in what may be their last chance?
That one is unknown, but the one thing you can count on is that they'd love to see a Game 7.
The Mavs could win it in seven; the Heat could win it in seven. The one constant would be more exposure, ratings and money for the league should the series extend to Tuesday night.
Look for James to get possible "And 1" calls, such as the bogus charging violation that was awarded to Tyson Chandler in Game 5.
LeBron has played some of his best basketball on the road this season. However, that was not the case in three contests in Dallas.
Now he has the advantage of knowing he is coming into friendly confines. A place where he can get back to strutting and screaming. That is as long as he is running and dunking.
Look for James to get into a different place mentally the moment he steps on the court tonight.
Winning a title and wrapping things up in Dallas would have been sweet.
Still, it pales in comparison to pulling out two do-or-die games and hoisting the trophy at home.
I haven't looked at the stats, but I don't think LeBron hit a single three-point shot in Dallas.
If that's the case, look for it to be one of many things that change in regards to shooting the rock.
Dallas hit 13 of 19 three-pointers in Game 5; that also will not occur again.
Expect Miami's defense to really snap back into form after trying to run and gun with the Mavericks last game. A greater intensity on the defensive end, combined with better shot selection and finding his stroke, will enable James to drastically improve Miami's chances of winning.
Thank you, Dan LeBatard.
At the sake of risking your own personal dignity and public embarrassment, you have given LeBron even more incentive to win.
Should the Heat pull out Games 6 and 7, Sir Charles will have to sport some speedos on South Beach.
Sure, Barkley has already kissed a mule and Dick Bavetta, but this would be a whole new level of humiliation.
While Barkley will probably love the attention, and America will hate James even more for giving us everlasting nightmares of Chuck's buttocks, it will still serve as sweet vindication for Bron-Bron.
Jason Terry ran his mouth and has since come out and humiliated James in a couple games.
That can't continue to happen for Miami to win a title.
James is a two-time MVP getting shown up by Mighty Mouse.
Look for James to really put Terry, Marion, Kidd and DeShawn Stevenson in their place with a dominating performance on both sides of the floor.
Most of all, by showing his on-court supremacy to those players, James will greatly enhance the Heat's chances of pulling out Games 6 and 7.
As if the Barkley bet wasn't incentive enough, James could force Terry to remove the Larry O'Brien trophy he had tattooed on his arm.
No one knows why James hasn't been getting to the charity stripe more than he has.
He is averaging about three free throws per contest. He has 16 in the last five contests total. That is less than he got in a four-game stretch at any point this season.
That is unacceptable from a guy who has shown us an ability to get to the rim and line at will his entire career.
Rather than continue to pass or settle for jumpers, look for James to finally put his head down and drive past the first guy in relentless attacks to the basket.
Expect James and Wade to each take 10 free throws or more in both Game 6 and 7.
James once came out and said that he wanted to be a billionaire.
Well, selling shoes and yourself can get you there, but that all depends on your brand's value.
LeBron has to know that a title right now in this season would increase his marketability tenfold.
More rings equals more fans, which equals more endorsements, which equals more money.
He may have sacrificed some to come to Miami, but he planned to recoup and surpass it by becoming a champion.
Not to mention that first ring will do wonders for the public's perception of him. Many will still hate him, but the kids who buy the jerseys, cards, posters and video games will begin to embrace their generations G.O.A.T.
We can see it now: Space Jam 2 starring Bugs Bunny and LeBron James.
LeBron tweeted last August that he was keeping a list of everyone to doubt or bad-mouth him.
Well, what good is that list for if you fail and prove the critics right?
James knows very well that losing right now with the criticism his play has garnered would be a disaster.
Dan Gilbert and the hordes of haters would get to celebrate, and that just can't happen.
Not when he gets ripped apart for faking a cough, yet some smug NBA owner gets a pass for being a classless ingrate.
Ric Bucher, Bill Simmons, Charles Barkley, Skip Bayless, Jon Barry etc. etc.
It's a long list, and James has the chance now to shut them all up. To come out and let his actions on the court speak louder than their mouths or fingers ever can.
James could have gone and played for any team that he wished.
Therefore, you know he chose Miami for a reason. It was for moments such as this. For games where his title hopes and postseason life depend on.
The rest be damned. Miami is now, for the first time all season, facing a must-win. This is why he aligned himself with the likes of Dwyane Wade and Pat Riley.
Make no mistake, if there is a true warrior inside of James it will come out tonight; Wade, and especially Riley, will see to that.
Tonight we can all see what is inside of James, because his heart, desire, toughness and fortitude will all be on display.
No longer do we see the master motivator strutting the sidelines. Nor have we heard him say much of anything during the series. That's just in front of the cameras. What has gone on behind the curtain is what NBA fans can only dream of being privileged to hear/see.
Expect for Riley to have completely mind-bleeped James in the last 24 hours, stopping at nothing to work James into a frenzy.
Then there is Wade, who will be out there doing whatever it takes to win. Seeing his friends need him more than ever should bring James to a different level. This is survival mode, and nothing is more dangerous than a cornered animal.
James, Wade and Bosh will be at a fever pitch come tip-off.
No one knows the depths or shallowness of LeBron.
He is constantly in the public spotlight, yet he is still an enigma.
This is his moment. This is his chance.
When he first made the Finals he was just a 21- or 22-year-old kid. Now he is a two-time MVP and veteran. He knows that wins in these next two games would cement him as an all-time great.
Heck, he did great in Game 1 and solid in Game 2. Add to that a triple-double in Game 5 and James may still win the Finals MVP should he completely take over for the next 96 minutes.
There is so much at stake for James that one wonders how he hasn't cracked under the pressure. Perhaps he has and the critics are right in that we are seeing James start to cower into his shell.
Maybe fear itself will dictate his performance.
Who knows if he has his greatest game solely because of the fear of failure.
To lose now would do great harm to his image. Thus he may be scared and run for cover; or he may find courage; even better he may discover that he truly is powerful beyond measure.
With a great performance he could make right all he has not lived up to in the public's eyes; despite winning two league MVP's before the age of 25.
The best thing for him is that there is still time and hope. If James manages to rally Miami and win a title, he will go down in history as a champion. Furthermore, if he wins Game 6 and then guarantees and delivers a victory in Game 7, he can reach that pantheon of legends. He will go down in folklore as a prophet.
One could begin to take seriously his prediction of not five... not six.... not seven.
James could even come out with a Michael "Squints" Palledorous in The Sandlot moment...
Yo, LeBron, did you plan that? "Of course I did, been planning it for years."
The time has come, and the eyes of the basketball world will be fixated on you, LeBron.
We will all be "Witness" to something. What that is only the "talent you brought to South Beach" can determine, but realize your "Decision," and now your Legacy, are at stake.
Do you got what it takes to go from mere mortal to basketball god?
Come the season's final buzzer, we will have found out.
Everyone says is he Batman or Wade's Robin.
But if you take a close look it's amazing how similar James is to the Dark Knight.
Both are criticized and made out to be villains when in reality they take all the attacks while continuing to sacrifice for the better of those around them. Then when they need him most, a spotlight goes out into the night sky calling for him to come and save the day.
Can you be Miami's hero, LeBron?
For those of you with short memories, let us recap the fury and intensity James will unleash on Dallas come tonight.