LeBron and Cleveland
Dan Wetzel with Yahoo Sports:
When the improbable, seemingly impossible, was done, when Cleveland’s championship was, at long, long last, won, LeBron James simply went to his knees and wept. There was nothing else to do.
Wept for the accomplishment, his Cleveland Cavaliers defeating the Golden State Warriors here Sunday, 93-89 in Game 7 to become the first team in NBA history to come back from a 3-1 Finals deficit. Wept for the performance, 27 more points, 11 more assists and 11 more rebounds to cap a three-game stretch (averaging 36.3 points, 11.6 rebounds, 9.7 assists while facing elimination) as great as any player, ever.
Wept, too, because of Cleveland, because of Akron, because of The Decision and because of The Return, because of the Drive, the Fumble, the Shot, because of Jose Mesa and Rocky Colavito, because the people and places back home made this bigger than him, bigger than a single team, bigger than it even should be, a basketball game understandably meaning so much to so many.
“Just knowing what our city has been through, Northeast Ohio has been through,” James said. “You could go back to the Earnest Byner fumble, [John] Elway going 99 yards
…Our fans, they ride or die,” James continued. “For us to be able to end this, end this drought, our fans deserve it. They deserve it. And it was for them.”
LeBron’s coming home letter was perfect PR, it was emotional, well written, and effective. Was it honest? I am not naivete enough to believe that if the Cavaliers hadn’t had some important pieces to be competitive immediately that LeBron might not have come back to Cleveland as soon as he did. I do believe that he wanted to bring a championship to Cleveland, he has city pride, and that he was willing to sacrifice a better situation to help out a city that meant so much to him.
The cynic will always point out that Miami looked gassed when he left and didn’t have as much promise. Cleveland had a future #1, plus a star in Kyrie Irving. They were younger and looked more appealing than a washed up Dwayne Wade and an ineffective Chris Bosh. Acknowledging that, I still think Miami was a better situation.
Miami is a first class organization with a great reputation and a culture of winning and professionalism. Miami had proven stars that had led teams into the playoffs. Both, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving couldn’t check either of those boxes. Organizationally? The Cavaliers were atrocious. They lacked a winning culture, stability, and professionalism. They went through coaches like Kardashians go through men. They needed a complete rehaul and it was unlikely that it could be done unless he did it himself. The letter was a great PR stunt. Charles Barkley, Colini Cowherd, Jim Rome, and many others all loved that letter. All admit that Cleveland had assets and could be a contender with LeBron. But, let’s be honest, in the Eastern Conference who wouldn’t be a contender with LeBron?
LeBron took a worse situation, a lot of risk, and put his career on the line, trusting in himself, as a leader and a basketball player, in order to bring the City of Cleveland a championship. It’s admirable. LeBron says and does a lot of things that doesn’t make him likable, to me. His sacrifice to go back to Cleveland in hopes of bringing them a championship to a city he loved, I applaud. Maybe there are things that I don’t know that make this move self interested, but without that information I choose to see the move as noble. Last Night was a great ending.
LeBron’s place in history
He has always felt out of place and time — out of this world. LeBron has never needed a contemporary, because his race is with the history of the game itself. His greatest rival is and will always be the idea of LeBron James…
Still: James was the series leader in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks; he logged only the third triple-double in a Finals Game 7; his block on Andre Iguodala with under two minutes left in the game, with his arms canvassing both sides of the rim and crashing down like the flaming sword of Uriel, will stand as one of the greatest plays in playoff history.
The horn sounded, the benches emptied and in that moment the weight of a city lifted off LeBron James’ squared shoulders… This is the stuff legends are made of, folks, and it’s time we ask: Is James the best we have ever seen? He will forever be compared to Michael Jordan, will be clubbed by MJ’s perfect Finals record and shrugged at by aging players with a warped perception of just how good their day was. But this is six straight Finals for James, with three championships to show for it. He won in Miami, now in Cleveland, and there is a reasonable argument that he has been the best player in every series he suited up in…
Let the debate rage, the pro-Jordan, the pro-Larry Bird, the pro-Magic Johnson factions have at it. Arguments for each have merit. But the most talented player of this generation has just added another trophy to his shelf, the most physically imposing forward in NBA history has just overpowered the team that once seemed destined to be considered the best of it. Any list of all-time greats has James on it; soon, even his fiercest critics will have no choice but to put him at the top of it…
The LeBron conversation has never been how good he is among current players, but has always been in the conversation of the basketball immortals. I don’t think there will be many that will put him outside of the top 5, but many will put him in the top 3, and now some will put him with Jordan. He deserves all of it. He is great, when he needs to be great. Curry still deserved the regular season MVP, he was better in the regular season, but in the playofffs there is no doubt. He dominated the series and showed up when he needed to show up. Hail the King, he is no longer just in the room as the immortals, but has a seat among basketball’s all-time royalty.