Today is why LeBron James went back to Cleveland, why the Cavaliers’ fans forgave him and why pundits predicted his team would win the NBA championship this year.
James has been rightfully criticized for chasing championships. Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, the two players James is most often are compared to, stayed with their original franchises and endured rough times before winning six and five NBA titles, respectively.
James wants to reach Jordan status, but he has yet to reach Kobe status. Winning this year, his first back after four years in Miami, would be a quantum leap toward the greatness he desires.
“I think that mentally and emotionally he’ll lead the way,” Cavs coach David Blatt said of James after practice on Friday. “And certainly on the court his example is going to be felt and it’s going to be followed. But this all can’t be on LeBron. This is a team and a team effort and everyone here has to do his part. The good news is he’s a guy that’s done it, been there and led teams to the ultimate. He’s certainly a guy that the other guys can look towards.”
For some, James’ bolting Cleveland to team with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami is an unforgivable blemish to his legacy. He did not grow with a team—he partnered with two all-stars and served as a rent-a-superstar before returning to his roots.
This time, instead of Wade and Bosh, James has Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, a pair of all-stars who have never played in the playoffs.
“I think they’re excited and they’re looking forward to their first time,” James said of Love and Irving. “They are very excited. None of us know, the game is played on Sunday, but I think they’re ready for it.”
Maybe. But as much as Blatt does not want to put on James, he will need LeBron to lead, score, rebound and hold up players who surely will have shaky moments. But not much right away; they are playing the Boston Celtics, after all.
But as they move on, James’ worth and legacy will be tested, vs. Chicago or Atlanta.
It all starts today.