By John Schmeelk
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Like everyone red blooded American, I would have loved to see the Miami Heat lose in the Finals to the Oklahoma City Thunder. No one wants to root for the team with three stars, – one of which stuck it to his home town on national TV – Pat Riley and one of the worst fan bases in sports. With that being said, part of me is happy because this asinine LeBron James narrative can finally be put away.
It’s fine to dislike and root against LeBron James because of the decision. What he did to Cleveland was reprehensible and showed little class. He also took an easy path to a title by joining forces with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. While it’s OK to dislike and root against that person, it’s also perfectly fine to recognize greatness when you see it. LeBron James was obviously the best player in basketball the last two seasons, and now with a title no one can deny it.
No asterisk comes with his first championship. I don’t care that it came in a lockout shortened season or that he did it with Dwyane Wade. LeBron James played the best basketball of his career when it mattered most, starting with Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals and through the Heat’s five game win against the Thunder. He had the Miami Heat on his back for seven straight games, winning six. At times he looked like Jordan. At others, he looked like Magic. He was special. Despite the well deserved hate out there, I hope those same people take the time to understand greatness when they see it. I couldn’t stand Michael Jordan, but I respected the hell out of him.
The beauty of LeBron James’ transformation is that he actually worked on his game and made adjustments that allowed him to get over the hump. He finally developed a post up game and used it to great effect in the Finals. The Thunder eventually had to send double teams at him after he scored again and again on James Harden. That would not have happened in years past. James remained aggressive throughout the series, taking the ball to the basket again and again. He stopped settling for long, contested jumpers and got to the lane. If the defense collapsed, he made the right play and hit the open man. He played defense from whistle to whistle. He played a complete game.
No one could have beaten the Heat and LeBron James the way they played in Game 6 of the Finals. The supporting cast stepped up and hit their open threes, more often than not set up by LeBron James. I never thought I would be able to say this about the Heat, but they played basketball the right way. Make no mistake, that’s a reflection of the play of LeBron James, the unquestioned lead dog of that franchise. Just remember, he is only 27 and isn’t going anywhere. (also reinforcing how the “can’t win a title” narrative was foolish)
Now no one has to hear talking heads yap about how LeBron James withers under pressure. The talk of him constantly failing in big spots is over and that’s better for everyone. All of those columnists are going to have to find a new narrative for the NBA next season. What James did in this playoff run was exactly why every team in the NBA wanted him when he was a free agent two years ago. He’s special and the best player in the NBA. It isn’t close. Now, he is also a champion. Today, he is actually King James. He is the best basketball player of the current generation and will be the foreseeable future. One day people will ask you what it was like watching Lebron James. You can talk about the baggage and why you rooted against him, and disliked him. But also talk about what a great basketball player he is and how he won the 2012 NBA Championship.
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- No one was beating the Heat the way they shot last night. When the Heat role players shoot like they did last night, they are unbeatable. Going into this series, I thought the Thunder would win because they were the better team. It turned out that the Heat supporting cast outplayed the Thunder, and it wasn’t close. James Harden had a bad series and Serge Ibaka was invisible at times. Meanwhile, Mike Miller, Shane Battier, and even Norris Cole had their moments.
- Similarly, I thought Scott Brooks would outcoach Erik Spoelstra. Wrong. Brooks had a bad series, and could never figure out the right way to match up, slow down the Heat offense, or even who to play when. It was truly a disaster.
- The Thunder aren’t going away anytime soon. They are young and they are good, and I expect much like it did for the Heat last season, losing in the Finals will serve as a great learning experience. They’ll be back, but I wonder with you. They have tough decisions with the luxury tax and whether or not they will retain James Harden and Serge Ibaka long term.
- Watching Pat Riley win another title made me sick, but not as sick as it made me watching Eddy Curry win a title. I sure hope all the 24 hour restaurants but out some extra food for his celebration last night. There is no truth to the rumor he tried to bite into the Larry O’Brien trophy to see if it was chocolate underneath the gold wrapper. (I stole that one.) He did pull his hamstring stepping up onto the podium, however. That’s true. Somewhere Isiah Thomas is muttering that only if the Knicks had patience with a young Curry, they could have won a title just like this. It’s also obvious that Curry was actually the key to getting LeBron to come to New York. Ok, I’m done.
- I hope Carmelo Anthony didn’t only watch but took notes during these Finals. He needs to play with the same kind of energy, intelligence and unselfishness that LeBron James played with in the Finals if he ever wants to take his game to the next level. It’s the only hope Knicks fans have.
You can follow me on twitter for everything Knicks, Giants, Yankees and New York Sports at: https://twitter.com/#!/Schmeelk.