“People are writing Miami off, but if they come back and win then win a championship, this will be the game that defines their post-season (and dynasty?) run. These are the games that make heroes, kids.”
These words were said before Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Miami was down 3-2, coming off a Game 5 loss where Paul Pierce buried a three in LeBron James’ eye that had every bit of “dagger shot” written over it. I didn’t say this though. David D. did. If you chose not to read the rest of this, I understand. Really, I do. So stop reading now. Just don’t say I never gave you the opportunity to abandon ship when there was still a chance. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
(looks up Juwan Howard’s “We goin’ to the chip!” YouTube clip from his Fab Five days)
Still here? Just don’t say I never attempted to warn you. LeBron James has a ring folks. And messed around and got a triple double in the deciding game, too. While I don’t know every fan of the dude, I’m pretty sure there aren’t 10 more people who aren’t apart of his family or directly employed by the Miami Heat more excited than I am. I didn’t tweet the entire game. Not even when Miami was up 25 in the fourth. Maybe it was a sign of maturity. Maybe it was paranoia. On second thought, it was paranoia. As a James fan, his entire career has been a real life Charlie Brown cartoon. The face of his brand has become – like his game – a nonstop locomotive, but also a running joke. His killer instinct wasn’t reminiscent of Kobe Bryant’s and damn sure not Michael Jordan’s. He was afraid of the moment. He was everything his enablers said he wasn’t.
And I’ll be honest, throughout the years, all the criticisms became stressful. It was only so much longer quoting stat lines would hold weight. It’s the reason the 2012 NBA playoffs meant as much as they did. Last year, when the Mavericks earned their title, I was sick. Sick to my stomach. So sick, even, I refuse to watch any footage from that series to this day. There wasn’t anything I could do but hope. Hope somehow Bron could get back to the Finals and redeem what was the most embarrassing moment of my sports fan life. Hope somehow he would develop a back to the basket game. Hope somehow the outcome would be different.
Then, Carmelo and New York got the boot. Danny Granger acted like a tough guy, but forgot how to score and the Pacers were gone. I didn’t know it then, but LeBron’s Game 4 jackhammer would ignite a run for the ages seeing him average 30-10-5 for the entire postseason. It was almost like LeBron realized how unstoppable he actually could be. Then, the Celtics – the same Celtics everyone counted out before the All Star break – pushed LBJ and the Heat to brink of elimination. And finally, the delayed sweep of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder happened.
So you’re damn right I’m on Cloud 9 right now. Being on the wrong side of destiny on repeated occasions can produce such a feeling. Now there’s stats supporting one of the greatest playoff runs in history – the first player ever to amass 650+ points, 200+ rebounds and 100+ assists in a single postseason – to go along with the one stat (a ring) that means a damn in so many eyes. Having said that, there are still doubts tossed my direction, which I expected.
“It took him nine seasons.”
Jerry West lost his first seven Finals appearances, albeit against the Boston mack truck dynasty. Oscar Robertson didn’t win one until his eleventh season, and that came with Kareem leading the charge. The point I’m trying to make is this. Shut the hell up. Not everyone is going to win it in their rookie season like Magic. And I hate to break it to everyone out there, but LeBron James will go down as one of the greatest players to ever touch a basketball. It hurts, I know. The sooner you accept this, the quicker the pain goes away. Who knows how many rings he ends up with. Maybe five or six. Maybe just this one. The man still has work to do. Like I always said before he grabbed his first title, discuss a legacy after a career is over. Not while the book is still being written.
“This ring doesn’t count anyway. It’s an asterisk ring.”
Ok, look. I get it. This wasn’t a “real” season. It was “only” 66 games. Just know if your favorite player/team won the championship, you’d be ready to do coke off a stripper’s back, too. An asterisk ring is still a ring. That’s like me telling you the lottery money you just won isn’t really yours because you let the machine pick the numbers instead of doing it yourself*. If there was never a season in the first place, you’d still be pissed. So what’s really worse? While pondering this critical life question, do me a favor. Cry me a river, build a bridge and get over it.
“He would have never won this ring if the East was healthy. Plus, OKC battled the past three West Champs then had to battle the refs this series.”
In regards to the refs, allow me to quote my brother Eddie Maisonet who just happens to be the biggest Oklahoma City Thunder fan I know. “I will never, ever blame a series on officiating. You can complain about that every year. The fact of the matter is this. Some calls should have gone OKC’s way, but they didn’t do themselves any favor giving away games late. You just can’t do that.” Now if Ed isn’t tripping about the refs, then neither will I. Just for statistical purposes though, Oklahoma City shot 92-119 from the charity stripe (77%) to Miami’s 112-136 (82%). Oklahoma City was whistled for 112 personal fouls to Miami’s 98. Did Miami get the benefit of some calls that could’ve gone under the rug? Of course, but Oklahoma City had yet to play a team in the playoffs who committed to attacking the basket the way Miami did. I know, this won’t do much to sway anyone’s opinion, but yeah. Moving on.
In regards to East being depleted, here’s this. Orlando always plays Miami tough, but do you really expect that Orlando team to beat Indy? No. Now, Chicago. Obviously, this was supposed to be the East Finals, but pending the way Boston came alive at the end of the regular season and the postseason, Chicago running through Boston wouldn’t have exactly been a cake walk. Take Derrick Rose’s injury out of the picture. Miami beat Chicago with basically the same squad last year. This is no shade to the Bulls whatsoever, but Rip Hamilton isn’t making that much of a difference. Miami still wins that series.