Thursday, June 21, 2012

LeBron James Finally Earns His Long Deserved Championship

(Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)
He's finally done it. LeBron James is an NBA champion.

It might have taken him nine seasons, but LeBron James can finally be called King James. James and the Heat took care of the young and restless Oklahoma City Thunder in only five games.

Despite defeating tough veteran teams like the Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Lakers, and San Antonio Spurs, the Thunder weren't able to defeat the team closest to their playing style.

James will always face criticism for as long as he plays in the league, but with this championship, he will silence a few critics. Some might never forgive him for leaving Cleveland, while others might never forgive him for his cocky "not three, not four, not five..etc" comment during his introduction two summers ago. But unless you're a bitter Cavs fan, or a jealous Knicks fan, there is no reason to hate The King.

How can we, as sports fans, hate the most talented player on the planet? This guy might go down as one of the greatest, if not the greatest (I went there) player of all-time.

From a physical standpoint, the league has never seen a player like James. As a 6-8, 250 lb beast, James can play any position on the court. He's known as a point forward- a player who takes up the ball and acts as the point guard or floor general, when really he is more comfortable playing in the post. Now add to James' already amazing physical stature, his world class speed and agility. Larry Bird and Magic Johnson both had the bodies and skill to be point forwards, but neither had the speed that James possesses. That's why James loves to grab tough rebounds on the defensive end, sprint across the court, and finish hard with a layup or dunk on the other end. No one does it better in the league.

The road to this championship wasn't a walk in the park for the Heat.

For starters, the season may have never happened if it weren't for a twentieth hour move by the league and commissioner David Stern just a week before Christmas. What the Heat didn't know though was that they were getting the best Christmas present of their life.

The Heat finished the 66-game season with a record of 46-20, which was good enough to earn the second seed in the Eastern Conference. When Derrick Rose went down with a heartbreaking ACL tear in the first round of the playoffs, the pressure on the Heat quadrupled. Everyone knew it was their championship to lose.

After a very easy first round series against the New York Knicks, the Heat figured they'd be fine. They assumed they would roll over the Indiana Pacers just as easily as they did against New York.

They assumed wrong. Despite winning Game 1, the Heat would go on to lose Games 2 & 3 and all of a sudden, the sports world was turning again on Miami. Analysts were saying that if the Heat were to go home early again without a championship, then the Big Three would need to be broken up. Others said they still needed more help than they already had.

None of that mattered though, because James and the Heat would respond and win three straight games to take the series. LeBron combined for 98 points in the three wins. He wasn't losing this year, no matter what.

After the Pacers, came the Boston Celtics. Again, the Heat found themselves in a similar hole. Despite going up 2-0 and looking unstoppable, Miami blew three straight games, and again faced extreme criticism and adversity. One more loss and their season was over. No surprise though, James came up huge in Games 6 & 7 (45 points, 15 rebounds, 5 assists in Game 6; 31 points, 12 rebounds, 2 assists in Game 7), and the Heat were once again back in the NBA Finals.

But this time, the Heat weren't the favorites. The red-hot Oklahoma City Thunder were coming off an impressive series win against the Spurs, and looked as if they were the best team in the world. Many thought that Durant's clutchness would outshine James' lack of clutchness in the Finals.

Boy did LeBron prove them wrong once again.

The Heat found themselves in an unfamiliar situation after dropping Game 1 in Oklahoma City. It was as simple as Durant outplaying James in Game 1. His 36 points were greater than James' 30, Westbrook was a better sidekick than Wade, and Ibaka and Perkins outplayed Bosh in the post.

When the Heat won a Game 2 thriller though, everyone figured the series would go to seven. Everyone except for the Heat, that is.

James and the Heat came out firing in Game 3, jumping out to a six point lead at the end of the first quarter. James' 29 points matched Durant's 29 points, but it was James' 14 rebounds that decided the game. The Thunder actually out-shot the Heat in Game 3, shooting nearly 5% better from the field. It was Miami's seven rebound advantage that won them the game. They lived off of second chances, both in this game, and in this past season.

Game 4 was another barnburner. Russell Westbrook played the best game of his life, but a brainless last second foul ruined any chances Oklahoma City had of winning the game. James posted another double double, this time with 26 points and 12 assists.

Despite leading 3-1 and having all the momentum in the world, the Heat still weren't the clear favorites going into Game 5. Thunder hopefuls believed their team would respond and force a Game 6 back in Oklahoma City.

Not on the King's watch. As he did in every pre-game huddle this series, LeBron told his teammates to treat this game like Game 7. No regrets.

And that's exactly how they came out tonight, in Game 5. Relentless, powerful, and determined, the Heat came out ready to end the season and be declared champions. By the time the game was in the third quarter, the Heat had built up a 25 point lead. No chance was Durant and Co. coming back from this one. When it was all said and done, Miami had conquered Oklahoma City, 121-106.

James again had another Hall of Fame worthy performance, finishing his MVP season off with a triple double. He also continued his streak of 25+ points in a game, a streak he began 15 games ago during Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

But he's not clutch, right guys? It's crazy to think that LeBron James' postseason career is based off of six games against the Dallas Mavericks. It's as if the world forgot that his stats are actually BETTER in the postseason than they are in the regular season. It's as if the world forgot he has made it to the NBA Finals three times in nine years. It's as if the world forgot that he torched the Detroit Pistons a few years back, putting up 40+ point games with ease.

Hopefully tonight, fans remember just how talented LeBron James is. Hopefully fans remember that James is in fact clutch, that James is in fact the best player on the planet, that in fact James is human just like the rest of us. Hopefully fans tonight will realize that they are witnessing the next Jordan, that there may not be another player like James, and that this could be the first of many to come for James and The Big Three.

I'll say it again just like I did last June. The Miami Heat will be champions next year too. Never count out on King James ever again.

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