After his brilliant performance in the 2011 NBA Eastern Conference Finals, I thought that all of the “LeBron Haters” would have calmed down a bit. But as the NBA Finals evolve, LeBron James has performed more than admirably, but that is not good enough for his critics. They are having a field day because he is not having a Michael Jordan-like performance. Now is that fair? How many Jordan’s are out there? Can we just appreciate this kid for what he has accomplished thus far and stop trying to anoint him as the next Jordan?
He dominated the Eastern Conference Finals on both ends of the court, hitting big shot after big shot while putting the clamps on the League’s MVP Derrick Rose in the process. He single handily brought back the Miami Heat from a double-digit fourth-quarter deficit in the deciding game of the Conference Finals. He hit two huge threes in the final four minutes, then blanketed Rose on the defensive end, rendering him ineffective, while his superstar teammate Dwyane Wade struggled offensively. Other than Jordan, I can not think of any other NBA great that dominated both ends of the court under such circumstances, and that includes Earvin “Magic” Johnson , Larry Bird and Isiah Thomas.
The way the media has been so critical of his play in the Finals, one would think that James is having a horrible series. The Eastern Conference Semifinals and Finals seem so long ago. That is when James’ brilliance shined so brightly, even the biggest LeBron Haters could not dim it.
It is not that he is not having a good series. He is deferring to Wade, who is having an outstanding series. You would be crazy not to feed Wade when he is as hot as he has been. If the Heat would have given Wade the ball in the 4th quarter of Game 2, they would be entering Game 4 with a chance to close out the series. They learned their lesson in Game 3 and that is why they regained home court advantage.
Wade has been so dominating that he will most likely win his second NBA Finals MVP should the Heat prevail. But that does not mean LeBron did not carry his share of the load. In heated moments of Game 3 when the Dallas Mavericks were trying to mount another miraculous comeback, James dished out four assists, including the one that led to Chris Bosh’s game winning shot. Then on the defensive end, James shut down the Mavs’ second option, Jason Terry.
I can’t believe the sentiment of some fans and members of media insinuating that if James does not win the MVP or dominate the series from a scoring standpoint that he is not the “Man”. Less we not forget that Bird did not win the MVP for his first championship. That trophy went to Cedric Maxwell. Thomas did not win the MVP for his first championship and Magic did not win two of the five MVPs that were given out when his Los Angeles Lakers won as well.
Of course after defending him, he disappears in Game 4, scoring only 8 points in a game ripe for the taking. But, that was an aberration rather than the norm. Remember this is a guy that scored 25 straight points in the 4th quarter of an Eastern Conference Finals game against the Detroit Pistons not too long ago.
Magic and Bird did not care who won the Finals MVP. They just cared about winning the championship. Jordan flipped the script by making it seem that you not only have to win the championship, but have to be the man while doing it. At this point of his career, I’m sure that James is just concerned about hoisting up the Larry O’Brien trophy.
Jordan, Bird and Magic were all unique players in their own way. LeBron is also unique in his own way. Just like we appreciated Jordan, Bird and Magic, we should appreciate James for who is and not try to force feed him in the mold from the greats of the past.