LeBron 2013: The Villain is King (Again)

The Miami Heat have now appeared in three straight NBA finals and won the last two. Tuesday night they were a Kawai Leonard made free throw away from losing two of three NBA finals. Thursday night they took what the Spurs were providing – high risk, low reward jump shots – and they capitalized with frightening precision. Their physicality was able to just barely, in game seven, exhaust, and finally rupture, the finely tuned Spurs offense.

In the 2012 playoffs, I saw flashes of a LeBron that I begrudgingly respected. I saw him get pushed around, get knocked down, and battle back. But while he gained that modicum of respect, he was not dethroned from his role of villain in my eyes, the Heat his loyal cohorts. The relationship has remained thus throughout this season and postseason as LeBron and Co have turned into the largest whiners in the game (though it could just be the camera’s fixation on melodramatic temper tantrums).

For years now, the knock on LeBron was that he couldn’t be clutch, that he evaporated in big games, and in the past this was true. But that was the past. If you still want to pull out the LeBron is a Choker placard, you also need to set your Tardis to pre-2012. The better option would be to just open your eyes. In game six, LBJ recovered from a demure start to dominate the fourth quarter and send the game into a winnable overtime. Before game seven he attached an IV of ice to his veins and shot the lights out of the building. The difficult long range and low efficiency mid range jumpers were handed to him on a silver platter and he gorged himself. San Antonio challenged the apparent weakness in his game and he proved resilient.

LeBron and the Heat now have two straight championships. What stands in the way of a third? In the East: A rejuvenated Bulls offense as Derrick Rose returns to balance their stifling defense; the schizophrenic Knickerbockers; the blue collarish, gold swaggerish Pacers crew? In the West: Bionic Vampire Kobe Bryant and minions; laser guided Warriors, the Zombie Sonics of OKC? The Spurs are not decaying the way the Celtics currently are, but the prime of their Big Three is long past; even if their mind-numbing precision can bring them back to the Finals again next year, their joints will be one year closer to chronic rheumatism. LeBron is the captain of a juggernaut with no opponent left standing.

People, both LeBron’s lovers and haters, love to drag out the Michael Jordan comparisons. I don’t care, it doesn’t matter. They will never play each other in their primes, just as neither will play Kobe Bryant in his prime. Or Bill Russell in his prime. The 1992 Bulls are not in the league to stop the 2013 Heat, so we don’t need to complain about it. But you also need to stop whining when I tell you that LeBron will remain my villain for the foreseeable future. Just like you on the other side need to stop saying that he’s a choker. He has proven his mettle – he is the best player in the league – but that does not in the least mean I need to like him.

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2 Comments to “LeBron 2013: The Villain is King (Again)”

  1. from what i hear the Heat are in trouble of having to rebuild everything in the off-season. they might be their own worst enemy. Sounds like Bosh, at the minimum, is up for trade offers.

    • I don’t know what their cap situation is. Of all the major US sports, the NBA seems to have the most convoluted money rules. People love to rag on Bosh’s performance, and while his scoring impact was minimal, he was a significant presence on defense. However, the Heat probably could get an adequate performance from someone else for less money and controversy.

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