NBA Finals – Tonight marks the beginning of something special for LeBron James – or something awful.
Two years ago, the three-time NBA MVP bolted Cleveland to team with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami – a move that made him perhaps the most polarizing figure in sports.
Love him or hate on him.
James comes face-to-face with that decision in the NBA Finals, which begin tonight in Oklahoma City.
In a very real way, this is a must-win series for James. He is where most expected him to be at this point in the season. But if he does not hoist the championship trophy in about two weeks, he will not be where he was expected to be in his career.
And he thought last summer was agonizing. . .
James’ status as the best player on the planet was solidified with his amazing Game 6 performance in Boston, when, facing eliminating, he spun one of the all-time most dazzling playoff performances. He did not replicate that gem in Game 7, but 30 points and 15 rebounds certainly register as a stellar effort.
And so here he is now, on basketball biggest stage with the most to gain of anyone. Wade already has a championship. Bosh is just a complimentary piece – an important one, but a piece nonetheless. Kevin Durant of Oklahoma City is just 23, with a strong team and many more years of brilliant play and championship opportunities ahead of him.
No, this series is about James. Will he finally be crown King James or will he bury his head in a crown with another less-than-awesome NBA Finals.
“I will be happy with (what happens in the Finals) because I am giving it my all,” James said.
Sounds like a man trying to talk himself off a ledge before he actually gets on it.
A title gets him to a place he deserves to be – on the way to being compared to Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, who possess six and five championship rings respectively. But you cannot catch them if you don’t get your first one, right?
This is his best chance, even more than last year when he still uncertain about asserting himself or acquiescing to Wade. No more. He distinguished this season – and especially in the postseason – that the Heat belong to him.
Tonight is the start of LeBron James’ legacy. What he did to this point is buildup to what happens now. This is his moment, his stage. Win it all and he and the Heat might run off a few in a row. Lose the series and an avalanche of blame will come down like never before for any other player, fairly or not.
A special time for James, yes. And scary.