Miami Heat's LeBron James sits with the Larry O'Brien Trophy and the Bill Russell MVP Trophy after his team defeated the San Antonio Spurs in Game 7 to win a second straight NBA championship. (Mike Segar/Reuters)
While LeBron James is no Michael Jordan, he alone is the reason he's a two-time
NBA champion. Perhaps observers were waiting for this moment where he answered the bell and dominated
the competition when the chips around him were down.
By the simple nature of the game, no team sport magnifies individual achievement like basketball. It's one of the reasons why legions of puckheads have no time for the sport. Yet basketball -- the NBA specifically -- also shares a commonality with all leagues: That the greats of today are always measured against those who came before them.
And in all cases, it's complete BS. It's unmitigated crap because like apples to oranges, a guy named Tom Brady from California couldn't possibly be Joe Montana from Pennsylvania; a kid called Sid from Nova Scotia could never be a guy named Wayne from Brantford, Ont.; and LeBron James will never be quite like Mike.
Not that I need to bite the hand that feeds me and rip apart a main staple of sports media talking points. Those who watched the Miami Heat's Game 7 win over the San Antonio Spurs Thursday night saw James' performance and heard his words after he led the Heat to a 95-88 win to clinch Miami's second straight Larry O'Brien Trophy.
"I'm LeBron James ... from Akron, Ohio, that's enough." LeBron told Doris Burke in the ABC post-game interview.
And he's now a two-time NBA champion. And while he's no Michael Jordan, he alone is the reason he's a two-time NBA champion. Perhaps observers were waiting for this moment - actually forget perhaps, we have been since he was a Cleveland Cavalier in the 2010 playoffs against Boston - where he answered the bell and dominated the competition when the chips around him were down.
The best player in the game became a straight-up jump-shooter, scoring 37 points at a near-50 per cent clip and grabbed 12 rebounds in Game 7 against a Spurs team that probably wins that game seven times out of 10. With Heat cogs Chris Bosh, Ray Allen and Mike Miller combining for a stunningly pathetic scoreless 0-for-14 night, James got his help from "'06 Flash" Dwyane Wade, Mario Chalmers and a hot Shane Battier off the bench (warming in Game 6, the tough defender went 4-for-6 from three in Game 7, becoming a difference maker).
Help from his friends
Think about it. While Bosh had maybe one or two moments defensively, the much-maligned third wheel of Miami was in absentia all night. Wade, who is visibly in decline -- and was inefficient together with James throughout the series -- was able to reach deep down with some stellar play for the second time in the Finals.
Beyond that, James got all his help from role players. Five Miami players scored baskets in the game. That's it. On the defensive end, he shut down Tony Parker -- hurting or not, likely the best point guard in the NBA -- in the fourth quarter.
You can criticize the play of Manu Ginobili or the decisions of his coach Gregg Popovich all you want, but to assume Pop would pull Ginobili -- who had bad hands all night -- is as crazy as assuming Erik Spoelstra would bench Wade at some point. Those guys, for all their age and statistical shortcomings are champions who have helped deliver a combined six titles for the Spurs and Heat respectively. While Kawhi Leonard played outstanding, Danny Green or San Antonio's bench didn't give them much and Tim Duncan, in a startling moment, appeared rattled late.
Losing Game 6 was the backbreaker for them. There's no way you can call it a choke like the Boston Red Sox circa 1986 World Series Game 6 -- if anything because this team has won before. These things just don't happen to the Spurs. They never trailed in the series, but ended up losing.
There was a feeling of nostalgia watching this amazing series progress. From 37-year-old Duncan to the inconsistencies of 35-year-old Ginobili on through to Wade's struggles, you couldn't help but get the feeling this was the last run for a couple of those guys. I hope I'm wrong. Duncan is arguably a top-five player all-time. Ginobili in his prime was an artist. Wade was once electric.
With the Spurs however, we know they've had a great run and the window is closing. But who would guess the Heat as we know it could be at a crossroads this soon? Who do they trade for if they want to keep LeBron past next year? Wade's days as a 20-point-a-night man are coming to a close. Bosh is a whole other story.
Against this backdrop sits the intriguing possibility on the horizon of James returning to Cleveland -- to join all-world point guard Kyrie Irving and Canadian power forward Tristan Thompson -- a hero in the summer of 2014.
"The second one was way harder than the first one," James told NBA TV after Game 7 about winning his second title. And it doesn't look to get easier. But he truly earned this title, and for now we can really call him King.
John ChickAlmost as cynical as a Toronto sports fan can get, John Chick has been around the NBA and other sports in one capacity or another for a decade, working at outlets such as Metro News Canada, Sun Media and TSN. He blogs on the NBA for CBCSports.ca and wishes Charles Oakley still played.
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