By: Elias McMillan
LeBron James’ triumph last Sunday night was one of the greatest moments in the history of North American sports. Just the entire sequence of events leading up to Sunday was really epic. James and the Cavs, facing elimination twice, responded with masterful performances in Game 5 and Game 6. Then on Sunday night, in a game that was finally competitive, James wasn’t as aggressive as he was in the last two games but still was able to will his Cavs to a championship. Yes, it was Kyrie Irving who really hit the dagger into the heart of Golden State but LeBron did the little things in his overall game that really propelled his team to victory. Now, LeBron and the city of Cleveland can finally have their day in the sun for the entire offseason.
LeBron has been such a polarizing figure in sports since he been in the league. Either you love him or you hate him. And he has a lot of haters. Bringing Cleveland a championship will probably go down as his greatest accomplishment and the magnificence of that accomplishment may cause the haters to let up on him just a little bit. At least that was the narrative being pushed by the media leading up to Game 7. Leading up to the Game 7 and all Sunday afternoon, all we heard was how awesome it would be for Cleveland to have this moment. Cleveland has waited for so long for a championship and we should feel sorry for their fans. In fact, Cleveland fans DESERVE a championship moment because it has been so long. This is my 10-year old son and he doesn’t know how it feels to be a champion because he is a Cleveland fan. Please, feel sorry for him. Please, feel sorry for us. Please, root for us. Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah. And it went on and on like that from the talking heads all afternoon. I couldn’t take it. And the funny thing is that I’m only exaggerating a little bit. They were really pushing the “Cleveland DESERVES this moment” card hard. It reminded me of how and why I hate the Chicago Cubs and the Boston Red Sox. When the Red Sox had its moment in 2004, everyone suddenly became a Red Sox fans. It was suppose to be some type of feel good moment. Just one big bandwagon for everyone to jump on all at once. They DESERVED it. Same thing applies to the Cubs. The lovable losers. That fan base has been waiting long enough for its team to become winners. We must root for them and we must wish their fans happiness. They DESERVE it. Here’s what I say: those fan bases deserve NOTHING! The Red Sox is 04 earned it. When the Cavs won it on Sunday, they earned it. Your fan base suffering for a winner is not going to gain sympathy. At least not with me. If you’re a fan of a team because they are winners, then you already lost. No one is forcing you to be a fan of any team. If you’re tired of watching your team fail over and over again, then stop being a fan. No one is forcing you to watch. You keep watching and you stay loyal because you are a fan and you love your team. Winning is a bonus. An awesome bonus. But it is not promised. And you DON’T deserve it.
But why does the success of King James garner such reaction from the masses. First off, there has never been anything like LeBron James in sports, period. 6’8, 250+ pounds, and he runs like a deer. It’s unreal. It’s unstoppable. No wonder many believed that he could be THE greatest ever once drafted in 2003. LeBron had his great moments early in his career in Cleveland but he couldn’t elevate his team enough to win a championship.
Really, the team didn’t have enough talent and having just LeBron wasn’t enough. The Eastern Conference was more competitive in those days. Leaving for Miami and “The Decision” didn’t really make me turn on LeBron but if you want to talk about his legacy, then that event definitely had an effect. Forming a super team to finally get a championship seems like a plot from a comic book. I understand what James was looking to accomplish but was it really necessary? I mean, look at the state of the Eastern Conference currently. All of that talent against the East really tipped the scales towards LeBron and I feel that the East has yet to recover. Meanwhile in Cleveland, they sucked enough to get a star in Kyrie Irving and win not one but two NBA Draft lotteries. What are the odds? James and his super team won two titles in Miami but they also lost two that included the first year in Miami and what turned out to be his last one. I don’t know what soured James in Miami and if he would have stayed, Miami might have been in the Finals again last year and this year. But LeBron saw the opportunity to form yet another Super Team in Cleveland by returning. Team Hopping to situation and situation to find that best possible one to secure a championship will always make me view LeBron differently when stacked up against the greats in the game. But remember, we can criticize him all we want. It doesn’t matter because we have to go back to our meaningless, joyless lives and he still gets to be LeBron James. His words, not mine.
LeBron’s talent on the basketball court almost has no bounds. He isn’t an elite jump shooter like MJ or Kobe but his power and size really makes him unstoppable offensively. It all comes down to body control. LeBron is able to play the game with the agility of a point guard while having the power and strength of someone who is 6’8 and 250 pounds. LeBron should be a bully on the court and sometimes he has been. Which is why his status as a FLOPPER is weird to me. It’s completely unnecessary but his history of flopping speaks for itself. And you could say that, “Oh. The game is different now. Flopping is accepted. Blah Blah.” Flopping isn’t a new thing to basketball. The greats rarely flopped because it’s a cheap, embarrassing tactic. But it’s apart of LeBron’s game. I don’t know if he was coached to do so at an early age but it’s been past time for him to grow out of that. LeBron does take a lot of punishment playing the game as big as he does but flopping, wining, and pandering to the officials isn’t a good look for the best basketball player in the world.
LeBron James and Cavs earned their moment in the sun right now but I have to bring up the circumstances that may have turned these Finals to Cleveland after being down 3-1 in the series. The NBA should not have gotten involved. What happened between LeBron and Draymond Green should have been just a play on. Double Technical. Nothing to see here. I don’t know how much of an affect Green would had in a Game 5 in Golden State but the NBA robbed us fans of seeing that.
Also, no one would have imagined how valuable Andrew Bogut was going to be to this series. We didn’t realize it until LeBron and other Cavs were able to get to the basket and rebound a lot better with him out of the lineup. And when the Warriors turned over the ball multiple times in that Game 7 when running the pick and roll with Festus Ezeli and Anderson Varejão. The Draymond suspension and the Bogut injury definitely helped the series turn in the favor of the Cavs. But hey, despite that Stephen Curry still played like crap down the stretch in that game and Cleveland earned it on the court.
I’m not anti Cleveland. My high school colors were Orange and Brown and I felt that the entire city hated us because of that. For that reason, I’ve always kinda wanted to see the Browns have some kind of success in the NFL currently. I never really cared about the Cavs. I never cared about the Cleveland Indians and their racist logo. I just hate and will always root against LeBron’s super teams no matter what city he chooses next. Unless it’s New York, of course. But you know that he is going to leave again right? Just wait until that talent dies down and they fail to replace it.
Speaking of that talent, besides Irving and Love, how did Cleveland get so many key role players in the first place? It is a staple for all of LeBron’s super teams to have top-notch role players who find their way on to the roster for nearly nothing? A season ago, Timofey Mozgov was a key role player. How did he get to Cleveland? He was traded there for nothing. JR Smith and Iman Shumpert were traded to Cleveland. For nothing. Channing Frye was a 32 million dollar man in Orlando. How did he get to Cleveland? He was traded there for NOTHING. Second round picks? Jared Cuttingham? Who? I mean, how can the league allow this kinda stuff to happen?
James is the ultimate opportunist and he really doesn’t have to be. The Eastern Conference is so weak LeBron is bound to compete for championships no matter what. So, why all the extra stuff? Why the team hopping? Why the flopping? I don’t know. Maybe its all just to fuel haters like me. I love how LeBron actually listens to all the criticisms and uses it as motivation. As if not just having the drive to be the best isn’t enough. I’m glad that Jordan didn’t play in this era so he couldn’t have so many haters to motivate him. And I’m not gonna waste any more time on ranking LeBron as a player against the all time greats. LeBron has plenty of basketball left and his legacy isn’t set in stone yet. And I don’t feel like crushing the “all-time great” narrative with him just yet. Because I don’t think he is or will ever be. Even better, I think LeBron will go down as the greatest athlete in the history of North American sports. Which could be better than being known as the best basketball player of all time. There isn’t anything wrong with that title. In my mind, when ranking the greatest players in my generation, I favor the players who are “dogs”. LeBron can have his moments as a “dog” in his career but I feel like he’ll be remembered more as a passive player. And hey, there’s nothing wrong with that. Passing is cool. Helping your teammates is cool. Finding the open shot for your teammate is cool. But the greatest players in my generation have been “dogs”. MJ, Kobe, Iverson. They are “dogs”. They aren’t passing when the game is on the line. And more times than not, they’ll hit that game winner. But in defense of LeBron and his lack of “dog”, if you’re winning than who cares how you get there.
Sign. As a Knicks fan, I hated Jordan growing up. So, draw your own conclusions. It’s still okay to hate LeBron James.