Finally it truly does feel good to be the King
By: Akiem Bailum-The Sports Realist, and host of “10 Minutes on the Clock” on the The Real Sports Talk Network Twitter:@Li495Akiem
LeBron James is officially a King with a Ring.
A team that was very beleaguered. A team that was under a huge microscope. A team that wasdrew the ire of NBA fans everywhere sans those in South Florida.
A team vindicated.
Your 2012 NBA Champions are the Miami Heat after defeating the Western Conference Champion Oklahoma City Thunder in 5 games. The final tally for the deciding tilt was 121-106.Given the way that 3rd quarter played out with the Heat outscoring OKC 36-21,it wasn’t really that close. Sure, it was 59-49 heading into the Half. And early in the 3rd quarter, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook & theThunder showed signs of putting together a huge quarter. It wasn’t meant to before OKC.
I said on my NBA Finals preview that the Thunder had the better bench. It seemed throughout the playoffs that Oklahoma had a much better bench than did the Miami Heat. There was a reason James Harden won the Sixth Man of the Year award.
The Heat, on the other hand, seemed like a team that was at least 60% reliant on LeBronJames & Dwyane Wade. Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals seemed toconfirm that more than anything else. King James went off for 45 points in that Game 6, but no one else for the Heat (or the Celtics for that matter) were seen anywhere in New England for Game 6 @ the TD Banknorth Garden. It was LeBron James’ world, and everyone else was simply living in it.
I felt that would be the difference & James Harden would be the leader of OKC’s benchattack this NBA Finals.
In Oklahoma City’s Game 1 victory over the Miami Heat, James Harden only scored 5 pointsand was 2-6.
In Game 2,he was 7-11 with 21.
Here’s where it gets good….
Game 3: 2-10with only 9 points and 0-4 from 3-point land.
Game 4: 2-10with a mere 8 points & 1-5 from Downtown.
Game 5: 5-11(not horrible) with 19 points, 3-8 from 3 point range, & was perfect at thefree throw line.
If anything,it turns out that the Oklahoma City Thunder was the team over-reliant on two major superstars. When Russell Westbrook went off for 43 points in a losing effort for Oklahoma City, the Durantula chipped in with 28. That’s 71 of their 98 points they scored that night.
No one else was in double digits.
In contrast,the Miami Heat found themselves in this series & they played as a completeteam. Their bench showed up when OKC’s didn’t. In Game 4, Mario Chalmers must’vebeen wearing his Kansas Jayhawks jersey underneath his Heat gear, because heplayed like was back in Lawrence. 25 points & 9-15 shooting. Those are 2008 Final Four-esque numbers when “Rock Chalk Jayhawk” won the ’08 National Championship.
In Game 5, it was Mike Miller who gave them 23 points & 7-8 from 3-point land. For him, it might as well have been the 3-point shooting contest at the All-Star Game.
And, in some small way, that completeness of team can be attributed to the return of a fully healthy Chris Bosh.
This series where they outplayed, outhustled, and outcoached a young OKC team thatwill win championships in the future as long as #35 and #0 are in Thunder gear. Then, go back to what the Miami Heat looked like vs. the Indiana Pacers sans Bosh.
That Miami Heat team had to go 6 games vs. Indy because Frank Vogel (for 2 games) exposedthe Heat’s weakness by utilizing Roy Hibbert in the paint. This Miami team may have swept them out of the Hoosier State.
And it was established these NBA Finals that this Miami Heat team is more LeBron James’team than it ever was before.
Game 1:11-24, 7-9 free throws, 30 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, and 4 steals in a losing effort for Miami.
Game 2: 32points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 5 steals, 10-22 and a perfect 12-12 on freethrows. (LeBron used to be only average at worst, good at best from the line.)
Game 3: 29points, 14 rebounds, 3 assists, 11-23 & 6-8 free throw shots.
Game 4: 26points, 9 rebounds, 12 assists, 10-20 & 5-8 free throws.
Game 5:Triple-Double. 26 points, 11 rebounds, 13 assists, 1 steal, 2 blocks, 9-19& 8-9 free throw shooting.
And now, the King has a Finals MVP to boot, vindicating his decision to leave Cleveland and “take his talents to South Beach”.
I will admit right now, I didn’t like the way LeBron wound up handling “The Decision”. I still think in some small way ESPN had a hand in engineering this Miami Heat team via The Decision. But that’s over and done with now. And even if there was still a reason to hate LeBron James, that is gone right now because he got what the couldn’t obtain (despite his best efforts) as a Cleveland Cavalier—a title.
Another element of this involves Erik Spoelstra. Coach Spo has been the biggest “on again, off again” story in sports since Brett Favre took us on a roller coaster ride with his multiple retirements & returns. There were several instances this season & playoffs where Spo was seemingly printing his own pink slip.Most recently, these include the verbal confrontation he and Dwyane Wade got into after Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals vs. Indiana.
Also, Spoelstra isn’t exactly the sexiest of coaching names like Phil Jackson, Larry Brown (who is now at SMU) or even one of the Van Gundy brothers (one of whichwas once forced out of Miami by Pat Riley(who is another)). But, if we constantly give Phil credit for being able to handle egos like Michael Jordan,Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Shaquille O’Neal, & Kobe Bryant, then wemust give the same respect to Spo for being able to handle Bosh, LBJ, and Wade.
And, in this NBA Finals, Erik Spoelstra out-coached Scott Brooks. Spo was under addedpressure because everyone remembers how Riley yanked Stan Van Gundy during the2005-06 campaign for himself—the year the Heat won their first title.
As I am writing this right now, Dan Gilbert had to have been throwing every possible inanimate object he could find at his television set watching LeBron & theHeat celebrate this championship. Remember, he was the one after The Decision who proclaimed that the Cavs would win a title before the “Self-Titled Former King” did.
Gilbert has now been undressed as an emperor himself—only he (unlike #6) is wearing no clothes. He’s a Michigan casino tycoon whom everyone in Cleveland wanted to elect mayor of the city after The Decision.
I thought Michigan& Ohio were supposed to be rivals!
The Cavs dohave a young team & they’re trying to build around Kyrie Irving. Some in Northeast Ohio are even saying that Kyrie is the new LeBron. That’s false advertising at its finest by trying to make up for Gilbert’s ineptitude at putting a team around #23. And, it gives unfair expectations to Irving to have to live up to what LeBron did in Cleveland.
As for Cleveland, tonight coupled with “Decision 2010” could be something they’ll never live down. It’s also perhaps another stain on what is a beleaguered sports legacy that the city endures.
Just as the original Browns won a championship shortly after leaving there & going to Baltimore,one of Northeast Ohio’s favorite sons leaves Cleveland to play for a championship team & wins a title (and likely more to come).
It’s somewhat unfair as well because Cleveland is a very nice city & one that deserves winning sports teams. The closest thing they have to that right now is Ohio State. They’re, of course, not technically in Cleveland, but they have a large Cleveland-area fanbase.
As for the Oklahoma City Thunder, again, they will be back next year. With the Spurs,Lakers, and Mavericks getting older and older, the Thunder are presumably the future of the Western Conference. A healthy Heat team will likely be the favorites to repeat, but the Thunder will still contend for championships as long as they keep the nucleus of Durant and Westbrook. As they gain more experience, they’ll win championships. Veteran teams are normally the ones that win titles in the NBA.
Miami’s parade might as well be in two cities, Miami & Seattle. I still remember tothis day how the Sonics were stolen from Seattle and shipped to Oklahoma City. I’ve seen SonicsGate numerous times & it’s a documentary I’d recommend to ANYONE. Kevin Durant was drafted by the Thunder while they were still the Sonics. It is hard to hate the Thunder because they have guys like Durant whom you want to see win….
….but Seattle’s ire at the Thunder is directed almost entirely at Clay Bennett. Whenyou compare SonicsGate to The Decision, you’ll come to the conclusion that Bennett is a much more hateable guy than LeBron James could ever be.
Finally,does this turn some fans off from the NBA? It shouldn’t because why didn’t fansget outraged of the idea of Boston’s “Big 3”? As was proven in Cleveland,championships are rarely won by just one superstar. Jordan needed Pippen. Shaqneeded Kobe. Duncan needed Parker & Ginobili. If anything, it may continue to increase the ever expanding popularity of the NBA because Kobe is on the way out. This is LeBron James’ league now & it helps that the NBA’s marquee superstar now has a ring to back his status up with.
Perhaps those fans who were Heat haters now either continue hating the Heat, turn offthe NBA entirely for no reason because of these “Big 3s”, or realize something else. Their hatred for the Heat was mainly ESPN-fueled, even though, ESPN broadcasted The Decision.
Because even though everyone remembers the “Not 1, Not 2, Not 3, Not 4, Not 5, Not 6, Not 7”remarks from King James, all he really needed was 1 in South Florida to vindicate himself leaving Cleveland. This one will lead to even more.
LeBron is 27 years of age. He’s now entering the prime of his career and he’s etching his future Hall of Fame legacy into the stones of NBA history.
So is Dwyane Wade who has now won his 2nd title and is 30 years old. Contrary topopular belief, within a few years, Dwyane Wade will be entering the back end of his career. It’s hard to imagine that since both he and LeBron James were part of that 2003 NBA Draft class, but Dwyane will be old in a few years.
It’s just that Wade played 4 years at Marquette and LeBron came into the NBA as a high-schooler at 18 years old in a year where he, Wade, & Carmelo Anthony became overnight sensations.
The Decision has been vindicated. The King has been crowned. A Team has triumphed. MiamiHeat—2012 NBA Champions.