Since LeBron James joined the NBA as an 18-year-old phenom, nothing but greatness has been expected of him. Now more then ever, with his Miami Heat down 3-2 to the Dallas Mavericks, that greatness needs to show itself. But in a form we have never seen before.
LeBron can’t be the playful personality we see in press conferences, commercials, and on the basketball court. He needs to show everyone the dark side of himself on the court, whether or not he thinks he has one.
Everyone has this 'dark side', and sometimes it’s that side of a person that can lead to greater success, rather then being the person that everyone wants them to be.
There are numerous examples throughout sports history of the type of person who can flip that switch. LeBron doesn’t have to look any farther then a peer in Kobe Bryant or an icon in Michael Jordan (who once punched a teammate in practice and made Kwame Brown cry daily in practice) to see the type of player he should be.
Even Alex Rodriguez was able to shed his “I want to be liked by everyone” persona and stopped caring what everyone thought to almost single-handedly carry the New York Yankees to the 2008 World Series.
LeBron needs to say to himself that he is the villain now, and his days of trying to be everyone’s favorite have vanished. He needs to see his new role and use that as fuel, to power the Miami Heat to their first title since forming the so-called mega team.
Dwyane Wade has already carried a team to a championship, and, so far, has basically carried the team to where it has gotten this postseason.
Tonight needs to be LeBron’s night. One in which he proclaims "I don’t care about fans, opinions, or anything other then holding that trophy."
He needs to be hustling more then anyone, diving for loose balls, delivering hard fouls if necessary, and if he sees one teammate who isn’t trying to match his intensity, he needs to step up into his face and say, "follow my lead or get off my court."
This is Dwyane Wade’s team, but these next two games (Game 7 if necessary) mean more to LeBron and his legacy than any other two games have meant to quite possibly any other player in NBA history.
If the Heat win this series, people will still say LeBron sold out and bought himself a championship.
But if they lose, then LeBron will forever be the player who sold his soul for a title and still couldn’t get the job done.
No matter what the outcome is, LeBron is the villain. This is why he must embrace this role.
I know that and you know that, but now it’s time for LeBron to know that and use it. What I expect to see out of LeBron tonight is an intensity that he’s never shown before. An inner beast that must be unleashed to reach the ultimate glory.
It’s time for him to channel Jordan, his idol, and get in the faces of teammates, whether it be Bosh or even Wade. He needs to let them know that this game is more important to him then anybody else on that court tonight.
Game 6 needs to be LeBron’s game from start to finish. He needs to own every aspect of this game, and for once his intensity needs to match his skill level.
It’s odd to say this for a player who isnt’t even close to 30 yet, but this could be LeBron James' last chance at redemption for his legacy.
Tonight, number six needs to take matters into his own hands and play like the legendary number 23.
Written by Ryan Doyle of Unfamiliar Luminary (Twitter- @musicalluminary)