One of the best finals in recent memory concluded Thursday night with LeBron James and the Heat hoisting another trophy and every non-Heat fan collectively rolling their eyes.
Whether you love LeBron or love to hate him, you have to feel fortunate that you had a chance to see the NBA’s greatest be great on the biggest of stages.
I personally feel quite good about the fact that I predicted the Heat to win the finals in seven games, and also made the “bold” prediction that the first team to lose consecutive games would lose the series. They should pay me for in depth analysis like this!
But enough shameless self-congratulatory back patting. There was only one narrative that mattered to me at the end of these finals.
It wasn’t the Heat dynasty, the Spurs “choking”, the arrival of Kawhi Leonard, the evil smile of Pat Riley, the end of the Spurs big three, Dwayne Wade’s third championship, the Ginobili suicide watch, Tim Duncan’s blown layup, Heat fans sucking, or even Matt Bonner; it was (as it always is) LeBron James.
We are all witnesses of LeBron James being the most schizophrenic superstar of all time. It seemed for stretches early in this series that he forgot exactly who he was and how to use his God given talents. He seemed to shrink from the spotlight, lose faith in his jumper, and back down to the likes of Tiago Splitter and Boris Diaw.
I imagine after Game 5 that Wade had to slap him in the face over and over again until James remembered who he was and what he is capable of. Then he put up a line 0f 69-22-15 in games 6 and 7. He is without a doubt one of the most polarizing yet fascinating players in NBA history.
Examining LeBron allows us to delve into the mind of a man who’s desperate to be great yet his biggest advisory is himself. Throughout all of sports history, there has never been such a (well-documented) insecure superstar.
You would think, somebody who dominates every other player he goes up against, and is constantly referred to as the greatest in the game, would not have any sort of personal issues about his identity. But LeBron deifies all expectations we have about a champion.
Jordan was extremely cocky bordering on being an asshole while James is friendly and almost never conceited. Maybe that is the difference between the two.
Jordan walked around knowing he was “the man” and constantly reassured himself and everybody else about this very fact. Therefore, he was never unsure of it when it mattered most.
James doesn’t have Jordan’s persona, and part of the dynamic of the big three is that he can’t be this cocky, “all-for-one”, type of superstar. LeBron is playing for team Wade, Jordan was playing for team Jordan.
So maybe that is why LeBron is prone to these mental lapses that affect the way he plays. He wants to be Jordan without “being” Jordan, and it’s hard to be the best if you don’t like to walk-the-walk and talk-the-talk.
But LeBron is a hybrid type superstar, and he has made it abundantly clear that he does not want to be Jordan; he wants to be greater than Jordan.
And that requires a completely different persona, one that we have never seen before because there has never been anybody greater than Jordan. Lebron will be the greatest on his own terms.
He’s a third of the way there after Thursday night, and the Heat is already favored next season for a three-peat. When the playoffs come around next season, I sort of look forward to seeing this peculiar playoff LeBron we are becoming accustomed to (if he still exists).
Not because I want to hear everybody bash him for not being the LeBron everybody expects him to be. No, I look forward to seeing this LeBron because it humanizes greatness.
It shows that even the most powerful and gifted of men still bleed the same blood as the rest of us. It makes him relatable.
I never got to see Jordan in his prime, and I never really watched Kobe during his ascent (only during his descent), but LeBron James is the athlete of my generation. He is the one I have grown up with and come to understand the most.
If I were his therapist, I would tell him not to change a thing. Every hero has their moment of doubt and it ultimately makes them stronger. I feel LeBron’s mental game may hinder him at times, but it is also what uncages the beast within.
Everybody needs a reality check once in a while, and his are just more publicized than ours. So enjoy LeBron for who he is, a semi-ridiculous four-time MVP, two-time champion, and two-time NBA Finals MVP.
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