The King and I: Lebron James

Posted by C.L. Anthony on Saturday, December 24, 2011 with No comments

"The self-declared former "King" will be taking the "curse" with him down south. And until he does "right" by Cleveland and Ohio, James (and the town where he plays) will unfortunately own this dreaded spell and bad karma.  Just see"  
Dan Gilbert

I'd felt it from the start, the feeling that something wasn't right, I felt as if I had to defend what I deemed as the best player of the Miami Heat triad that was drafted in 2003.  The media wanted me to believe one thing but my heart, my basketball IQ forced me to believe something different.  Eight long years and 1 championship later I still feel exactly the same way.......Dwyane Wade is a better player than "King" James!  That's not to say that The "King" is a bad player, I would never say that but to date The "King" has lacked something that Wade has, Kobe has and MJ had and it was evident again in last season's NBA finals when it reared its ugly head and prevented the Miami Heat from winning their second championship.  I'll admit that during Lebron's career I've had a love/hate relationship with him and since he's joined the Miami Heat I've remained silent on all things Lebron James; that is until today.

During the 2008 NBA season, I heard rumblings that the Miami Heat were going to begin to develop young players, not acquire any bad contracts and prepare for the summer of 2010 when they could make a huge
splash in free agency, the Heat had a plan and relayed that plan to their fans.  Coincidentally during the summer of 2008, as the Redeem Team were battling their way towards a Gold Medal at the Summer Olympics, Dwyane Wade, Lebron James, and Chris Bosh discussed the idea of all three playing for the same team.  Doing so in Toronto was unrealistic, Cleveland just couldn't afford it so that left the Heat as the only option, many teams had the cap room to sign two of the three but only the Heat could sign all three.  It was that knowledge that allowed me to tell all that would listen that the Miami Heat would win the NBA Championship during the 2010/11 season.

The Decision!

While watching the All-Star game at Cowboys stadium, a friendly battle between Eastern Conference teammates Dwyane Wade and Lebron James began to form and the two were vying for the games MVP award.  It was an incredible array of artistry as the two played a game of what you can do, I can do better but at the same time fought for the united goal of defeating the Western Conference in the world's most amazing stadium, a cathedral of sorts to celebrate all that's grandiose.  In the end, Dwyane Wade came out victorious adding the games MVP trophy to his NBA Finals MVP and NBA championship ring collection.  On that night I was so proud of Wade because he had just showed the world that yes he was on the same level as James and in the eyes of some even better. 

During the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs a few months after the All-Star game, Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers were defeated by the Boston Celtics and that night it was evident that no one was going to see James in a Cavs jersey again.  As he took his jersey off and walked through the tunnel with his head down, it was symbolic, an unconscious declaration of the end.  After years of hearing that the King was going to land in New York, soon the media began to pick up on something that I had know for years, the Miami Heat were going to make Lebron James their number one target in free agency.  Once the announcement was made that The Decision was going to be televised, I knew one of two things would happen, James would have a change of heart and he would announce that he was going to remain with the Cavs or that he was going to join the Miami Heat.

The week prior to The Decision, Lebron James, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade all had meetings with various teams due to the fact that all three were free agents and there was a two day stretch where reports indicated that Dwyane Wade was close to signing with the Chicago Bulls, his hometown team and the biggest threat to derail the Heat's master plan but Miami still had its trump card.....prestige.  Two days before The Decision, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh announced that they were both signing with the Heat.....two down and one to go was the expectation and as The Decision drew closer, the world seemed to stop and then the day arrived.  There I was in the store that I managed with ESPN playing on the TV's all day following every bit of coverage that I could before the 9 pm start of The Decision and as the hours became minutes, I grew more and more nervous because I knew that The Decision could have shaped the Miami Heat for years to come.  Once 9 pm arrived, the doors were locked and I sat on the counter to hear the announcement.  As soon as Lebron James appeared it was evident on his face that he was heart broken about what he was going to say and after 30 minutes of useless conversation between Lebron James and Jim Grey, it happened......

All in a weeks time the Miami Heat had acquired the NBA's best player and the league's greatest weapon but who was who.  The media began to instantly question whether or not if the two alpha's could coexist on the same team.  I promised myself that I wouldn't be blinded by the hype and that I would critique James fairly even though he was now a member of the Miami Heat, I didn't want anyone to feel as if I was defending him just because I'm a Heat fan.  I was caught in the middle of wanting him to do well, but not seem like a bandwagon fan to those who didn't know or understand my Heat pedigree.

There were many times last season when I began to sway, I became amazed by the change in the "King's" game, his attitude, I loved the real Lebron and I thought it was the real Lebron who'd been hiding behind the "King" for years.  I thought the King had been left in Cleveland and I was finally able to appreciate Lebron. My conviction grew stronger as the Heat powered themselves to the playoffs and advanced through the Sixers, Celtics, and Bulls with ease before facing the Mavericks in the NBA Finals.  After the Heat vanquished the Celtics, Lebron knelt to the court and had a moment, a moment of accomplishment, a passing of the torch as the Celtics had always stood in his way.  It should have been his signature moment, like Jordan over Ehlo, Hakeem Olajuwon ripping the soul out of David Robinson with the Dream Shake, and Kobe tossing a perfect ally oop pass to Shaq that spring boarded the Lakers past the Blazers in game 7 of the Western Conference Finals of 2000.  Lebron had his defining moment but he needed to complete the deal by defeating the Mavericks in the NBA Finals.  Ultimately Lebron's loss was the Heat's loss as the Heat fell to the Dallas Mavericks in six games, six games where Lebron James score only six points or less in during the fourth quarters of the final four games.  His failure stung due to the fact that he was brought in to help push the Heat back to the top.

During last season's NBA Finals I was in a state of shock, I knew why we were losing but I still couldn't believe it.  I knew why we were losing but I couldn't face it, this time was supposed to be different, he was supposed to have his defining moment but it wasn't to be.  It was one of the rare times in my life where I actually hated being right.  For the previous seven seasons I'd warned all the Cleveland fans that I knew that "King" James didn't have the heart, the fire to close the deal, to lead his team to an NBA championship and there I was watching The "King" again squander another chance to claim the ultimate prize but this time was different, it was my team that was being hurt, embarrassed.  The pressure was too much for The "King" to overcome and thus his legacy as a choke artist grew. 

Chance at Redemption?

Today the journey begins anew for Lebron James, The "King" was left watching the Mavericks celebrate their championship victory on the Heat's home floor.  I understand that there's no way that Lebron James could win another MVP award anytime soon but he has to play at that caliber, he must raise his game to another level and dominate the regular season in a way that he's never done but it can't end there.  James must "lead" the Miami Heat to an NBA title, Wade is the leader of the team, its heart and soul but it must be James who takes the lead role in the playoffs and beyond.  Then and only then will he have his redemption, his salvation.

Most sports fans are fickle and they will eventually grow to love Lebron James more than they did The "King" but he must deliver a championship to the Miami Heat before that healing process can begin.  This fan was ready to anoint him, but his epic collapse delayed the process.  As a long time Heat fan there are certain players who's let the team down over the years and to this day I refrain from using their names in an attempt to erase them from existence i.e. Jddie Eones.  Lebron James can change his entire career path by simply winning the ultimate prize and he doesn't have to look far to find the blueprint for success.  Dirk Nowitzki was considered to be a choke artist for years, most of his career and it only became magnified when the Dallas Mavericks were defeated in six games by the Miami Heat in the 2006 NBA finals after having a 2-0 lead, home court advantage, and a 15 point lead with five minutes to go in game 3.  During the playoffs of the very next season, the number 1 seed Mavericks were punked out of the first round by the number 8 seed Warriors in spectacular fashion again exposing Dirk as a choke artist  Fate allowed Nowitzki to enjoy his path of redemption and now the only thing someone can call him is an NBA champion and he is perhaps the league's most marketable player at this time.

Lebron James can still enjoy the career renaissance that Nowitzki is enjoying at this time but James must leave the "King" where he was defeated, the NBA Finals of 2010.  "King" James is no longer needed in the life of Lebron James.  "King" James was the media marketing machine, the persona that made Lebron a mega star full of style but no substance.  Only Lebron can help Lebron, the Miami Heat can show him how but he has to first follow, then lead and leave the "King" behind.  The basketball Gods will test the will of Lebron James once more and this time he can't fail, no more visits by the "King" no more epic failures.  "King" James as we knew him must die and Lebron James must be born anew.  There are times when you can look into the soul of a man, know his inner thoughts, his fears and his weaknesses, I've seen those things in the "King" for the first 8 years are his career, I've stared them down, passed judgement on him.  I pray for the day to come that I look into the eyes of Lebron and see no fear, but see hunger, desire, heart.  One can question a man's game but you can never question his heart; I just hope that Dan Gilbert doesn't end up being right about the "King's" curse.  I leave you with a quote from perhaps one of the greatest champions to ever live.....Muhammad Ali.

"Champions aren't made in the gyms.  They are made something they have deep inside them: a desire, a dream, a vision."