michael-garcia - June 22, 2012
LeBron James can do later tonight what a lot of people still hope he won't; win an NBA Championship. When he came into the league straight out of high school in 2003 and was dominant from his first game, it seemed pre-ordained that James would own multiple championship rings before his playing days were over.
He helped lead the Cleveland Cavaliers to their first and only NBA Finals appearance in 2007, only to get swept by the San Antonio Spurs. That team didn't offer LeBron much in the way of help, though they promised they would bring in more talent to get over the hump, but never really did. So LeBron, after signing two extensions previously, did what any free agent would do; look for a team that could win. The way he went about it, the terrible decision to do The Decision, suddenly turned James from clean cut hero to the villain of the NBA.
Even the biggest LeBron apologists agree that televising where he was going to sign was an awful idea. But that was two years ago, and some people still won't let it go. Also dumb was the introductory press conference / jam session / rock concert or whatever the hell that was that had James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh on stage and LeBron proclaiming they were going to win something like 7 championships.
That's a recipe for people to hate on a guy if there ever was one. Still, Miami got to the Finals, only to get beaten by the Dallas Mavericks. LeBron admitted that he was 'very immature' last year after it ended. He told reporters yesterday that he was playing last year to prove people wrong instead of playing and having fun.
That's not the case this year. LeBron has put together one of the most dominant playoff runs ever. Throughout the 22 postseason games the Heat have played this year, James is averaging 30.5 points, 9.7 rebounds and 5.3 assists. He's also getting just under two steals a game while shooting 50 percent from the floor.
From a pure basketball standpoint, it's been simply mind blowing watching what he's been doing. The fact is, many people who don't like James won't separate their personal feelings from what he's doing on the court.
So what would a Championship do to change his image? Probably not much for most people. The first thing you'd probably hear is 'it's only one championship.'
You can't win two until you have one.