Well, it’s over. LeBron James has officially won his first NBA title, along with Miami’s second in six years. It’s difficult to feel one way or the other due to the sheer inevitability of it (did people really think LeBron would never win a title?). By the time they’d knocked down their seventy-eighth straight three in the third quarter, were catching every bounce and Oklahoma City was rattling out shots and committing unforced errors, anyone who was going to be irate about LeBron and the Heat getting a title should have gotten over it then. This was just a loss in every respect, and led to me tweeting things like this.
You (us) are about to be bombarded with think pieces explaining What It All Means and other melodramatic hyperbole, in fact you probably already have. So I apologize in advance for the overkill. But this formation of three of the fifteen best players in the league culminating in some degree of success was more predictable than box office success for Pixar. It’s misguided saying this is great for the league since what fundamentally makes Miami a compelling story is when they lose, because they’re not supposed too. Some might use the Bulls or Lakers as a counter-example being good for the league’s popularity, but if you can’t figure out the variable differences between this Miami team and these most recent Lakers teams, than I don’t know what to tell you.
Just like those last two dynasties this isn’t an example of someone overcoming odds so much as it’s exactly what tends to happen when the talented, rich and powerful align with their peers to tip the scale in their collective favor. It happens every day in this country and usually it isn’t celebrated with such fervor by those outside the loop. Yet the media and fans seem to be at odds as far as this is concerned, the former is too in the bag and the latter is too dismissive.
Miami has a great team, and this will likely be the first of anywhere from 2-4 titles. They might not make the eight or whatever that was promised during their self- introduction. Wade is simply too old to play at this level for another seven years. He may very well be replaced because as has been proven before, players will take severe pay cuts to play in markets like Miami with players like LeBron and Bosh, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Regardless, it’ll be a virtual impossibility for LeBron to reach the eight titles he so boisterously claimed were coming to him, and that will always be echoed by his antagonists and naysayers.
You can go ahead and think LeBron James sucks at basketball, and I won’t argue with you. It’ll simply have to be your delusion and I’ll openly think you’re nuts because what else really has to happen that could change your mind? But if it’s your prerogative then go ahead and think it. In my humble opinion, this isn’t so much a validation of LeBron James as a basketball player, he always has been. It’s a validation of forming your NBA team by simply throwing together the biggest and most talented group of NBA stars possible, filling in the extras with players who can occasionally hit three’s, and letting it go from there.
So teams are going to attempt to replicate this format, but unless you’re the Thunder it’s ill-advised. Winning titles usually requires filling out a complete roster, and as great as Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony are, James stands out amongst even the most elite crowds. A great point guard (the league’s best, in fact) and a brilliant isolation player who doesn’t contribute much else can’t hold a candle to James (and in my opinion Wade, but that’s a different conversation). You need a transcendent player, and the only current NBA players who can attain that moniker right now are James himself, Durant and maybe Dwight Howard. That’s the entire list.
And even then LeBron towers over these two in figurative stature, which apparently implies we’re supposed to be his supporters because…he’s a great basketball player? I don’t know, I’m still trying to figure this out. It seems if Skip Bayless says crazy things about you for two hours a day, it gives everyone else with a meaningful platform a license to be sycophantic lapdogs who berate you for not championing Bayless’ target. There has to be a happy medium and some in Bristol, Connecticut exemplify it, but every time I flip on the ESPN radio, read an article about the NBA, I hear and see things like this and this (though Rovell’s situation is unique to most, he’s always a front-runner and it’s all wrapped up in capitalism and the commodification of sports, which I can neither relate to nor be bothered to care about).
The marching orders seem to be that everyone who roots against LeBron James, for whatever reason, is now supposed to apologize for being so foolish as to think he’d never win a title. Well, that’s not how sports work. Whenever an athlete of this or a similar caliber parts ways with a team he closely identifies with. No one asks Green Bay fans to forgive Favre, or Red Sox fans to forgive Clemens. Does anyone think if Kobe left the Lakers for the Clippers, that Lakers fans would be similarly venomous? Yet as I write this Colin Cowherd is killing Dan Gilbert, for some reason. Wait a second, I thought this title was supposed to be unifying in some way (though Cowherd is essentially the Darren Rovell of radio broadcasting).
People are going to dismiss this title out of hand because it was a strike-shortened season or for whatever reason they can cling too, and that’s equally foolhardy as suggesting that everyone has to like LeBron because he’s the best basketball player on the planet. Being good at basketball isn’t a character reflection, and the former is almost nullified by the fact Oklahoma City benefited from it even more than Miami did, and the latter is just as much an excuse to root against LeBron as it is to like him. These conversations will go in circles for as long as we have them, and there isn’t really anything left to say. LeBron has a title, people are going to root for him for just and unjust reasons alike, now we can all move on.
Hopefully that ends up being the significance of a post-LeBron NBA title, we (myself included) can finally decide he isn’t worth obsessing over.