Question: Which event compelled more citizens around the world to unite against a common enemy while expressing their disdain for past crimes, injustices, and grievances – The Capture of Osama Bin Laden? Or the unification of hate against Lebron James and the Miami Heat during 2011 NBA Finals?
I’m going with Lebron and the Heat. At least Osama had pockets of support from the international community as well as a wife who was willing to serve as a human shield instead of allegedly serving up Rashard Lewis. But then again, what do I know?
Please tip your waitresses on the way out.
Some Final thoughts around the 2011 NBA Finals as the riot police monitor the streets in every city BUT Miami:
LeBron James, His Legacy, and Chasing 23
Before I begin, can I also throw my hat into the ring as the 1,345,567,945th person to claim ownership of the “Never ask LeBron for change for a dollar, because he will only give you 3 quarters” joke that has been making it’s way around the internet? No really, I’d like to join the masses in shamelessly pawning that one off too.
Quite an odyssey for the self-anointed King, huh? No player in the history of the NBA endured more scrutiny, operated under a tighter microscope, or wore a bigger bulls-eye.
After taking his talents to South Beach, LeBron went through the numerous highs and lows that came with playing alongside a second Alpha Dog. At the start of the season, when both LeBron and Dwyane Wade struggled with chemistry issues, Lebron was deemed a bum. By mid December, the Heat put together a nice string of wins, LeBron became the Alpha Dog, and suddenly he was a hero. By March, both Lebron and Wade missed a series of Game Winning/Game Tying shots,the team was reduced to crying in the locker room, and questions once again arose as to whether LeBron and Wade could share the ball – Lebron was once again a bum. Then, by season’s end, the Heat hit their stride and as they dispatched the Bulls in 5 games, LeBron was not only a hero, but evidentally chasing the Michael Jordan legacy.
Now that the Finals have ended, LeBron has not only once again been deemed a bum, but if at all possible, an even greater bum than when the season started. During the Finals, LeBron averaged only 18 points per game (9 below his season average), 4 Turnovers per game, performed miserably in the clutch, and was often tepid during critical moments. Make no mistake, this was a series that he should have won. His performance was absolutely inexcusable and his demeanor on the court became the non-basketball equivalent of when my buddy Scott learned that his wife dated Tommy Lee back in 2003…. I’m telling you, it was that same exact glazed look of bewilderment.
Lebron didn’t simply play poorly, he checked out, and this loss will forever be an irremovable stain on his resume. The 2009 loss to Orlando, despite having home court advantage, could be forgiven; He averaged 39 points, 8 rebounds, 8 assists, had a True Shooting percentage of 63%, and literally did everything humanly possible to win, but his teammates simply let him down. The 2010 loss to the Celtics, while mystifying, was nonetheless something that we were willing to overlook this year. He had a bad series – everyone has a bad series sometime in their career, and we were willing to accept that this was an anomaly so long as history never repeated itself. And then, it repeated itself. He checked out… AGAIN!
This one is going to be tough for LeBron to get over. He was oftentimes disengaged and confused, and his lack of a post-up game came back to bite him in the end. So what have we learned over the course of 11 months? Probably nothing. By my count, LeBron has gone from Bum to Hero, or Hero to Bum, 4 times in 9 months, which leads me to 2 points:
1.) LeBron’s legacy, as long as he wins a championship, will be just fine.
2.) The LeBron vs. MJ discussions are nowhere close to being over.
Contrary to popular opinion, Lebron James can absolutely recover from this meltdown and once again partake in the “better than Jordan” discussions (not that I believe this to be true). And do you know why? Because NBA fans not only have selective amnesia, but are also desperate (and I mean desperate) for that next Jordan. In about 10 months, Lebron will once again have a great regular season, and everyone will conveniently forget his past failures while chomping at the bit to once again anoint Lebron as the next MJ..
You don’t believe me? Just look at the history.
After winning a championship and delivering arguably the greatest individual performance in NBA Finals history in 1980, Magic Johnson was suddenly cast as a bum 4 years later during the 1984 NBA Finals after he committed a series of errors in Games 2, 4, and 7, and was labeled a “choker” and “Tragic Johnson”. Everyone declared that his legacy was forever tarnished, and that he would never be able to overcome such a momentous playoff failure. One year later, his Lakers achieved redemption with an NBA Championship during the 1985 Finals, and 2 years after that, Magic closed the 1987 season with one of the most dominant start to finish individual seasons in NBA history. By 1988, Magic was considered the best player in the NBA, and in some circles, the greatest to ever play the game. From hero to bum to hero again - how quickly people forget.
In 2004, Kobe Bryant was largely blamed for the demise of the Los Angeles Lakers during the NBA Finals against the Detroit Pistons after taking a series of ill-advised shots during crucial moments of games. During a pivotal Game 3, he provided an uninspired effort in which he shot 4/13 with 11 points and 3 rebounds, and during a Game 5 elimination game, he shot 7/21. Kobe finished the series shooting only 38% and averaging 22.6 points, 2.8 rebounds, 4.4 assists (well below his regular season averages), and the chase for GOAT was officially declared dead.
The chase was then resurrected prior to the 2008 Finals, but Kobe once again played poorly, shooting only 40.5% for the series, 6/19 during a monumental Game 4 collapse, and 7/22 in a Game 6 Elimination game. Once again, everyone had declared the chase for GOAT to officially be over, and we were certain that we heard the last of the Jordan vs. Kobe comparisons.
Fast forward one year later when Kobe averaged 32.4 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 5.6 assist during the 2009 NBA Finals, entering into a select group of 30-5-5 NBA Finals performers, and suddenly, the race for 6 rings and the Jordan legacy was back on. From hero to bum to hero to bum to hero – how quickly people forget.
Trust me folks, the Lebron for GOAT discussions may be dead for now, but come the 2012 playoffs, they will rear their ugly head just like they always do. The fans and the media are desperate for another Jordan, and will not quit until they find him, even if he is only 70% of the real thing. With that said, Lebron James now has 2 choices - either:
a.) Develop a high/low post-up game to better cope with sophisticated defenses, or
b.) Commit 100% to the role of Scottie Pippen 2.0.
Its that simple.
The Legend of Dirk Nowitzki
How surprised am I that the Dallas Mavericks won the NBA Championship? On a scale of 1 to 10, I’m a 20.
In the history of the NBA, there have been 4 other instances where a single Alpha Dog willed – literally willed – his team through the playoffs en route to a NBA Championship without a true #2, and nothing more than a bunch of role players.
#1: Rick Barry and the 1975 Golden State Warriors
#2: Bill Walton and the 1977 Portland Trail Blazers
#3: Hakeem Olajuwon and the 1994 Houston Rockets
#4: Tim Duncan and the 2003 San Antonio Spurs
Dirk Nowtizki’s performance in 2011 is #5 and arguably the most impressive of all. His Mavs had absolutely no business beating the Miami Heat, nor the Defending Champion Los Angeles Lakers for that matter. Moreover, he also beat a Portland Trail Blazers team that many of us expected to upset the Mavs, as well as an up and coming Oklahoma City team with 2 young stars.
What more can you say about Dirk? Once known as the consummate choker, we can now officially declare the Ghosts of 2006 and 2007 to be exorcised as he comfortably surpasses both Charles Barkley and Karl Malone, as the second greatest Power Forward of all time. Dirk is no longer simply a champion, he is now an unequivocal legend, and his performance was absolutely mindboggling.
An unbelievable run. Congrats Dirk: You represent everything that is right about the NBA.
Lastly, my personal congratulations to the following:
- Mark Cuban – No single owner exemplifies the word Maverick better than you do. Granted, you change players as often as Brett Farve changes retirement plans, but no owner offers fewer reasons to fail. With the exception of Dan Gilbert’s open letters and pricing strategies on bobble head dolls, you remain the most entertaining owner in the NBA.
- Scottie Pippen - Despite being retired for 8 seasons, and never playing a single minute in the 2011 NBA Finals, you still nonethless managed to change the course of history by placing the age old MJ curse on Lebron James. After that, Lebron was never the same.
- Kobe Bean Bryant – Arguably the biggest winner of all. Those Lebron vs. Kobe discussions have suddenly shifted back in your favor. Lebron can no longer hide behind the excuse of having inferior teammates and while you yourself have had your share of playoff failures, you have still proven that you can lead a team to a championship when given the weapons. Score one for the Bean. I look forward to seeing what you have up your sleeve after a full summer of rest.
- Tyson Chandler – When the Chicago Bulls drafted you back in 2001, you were a 7’0 center who was extremely raw, shot free throws poorly and had no offensive game. 9 years later, you have evolved into a 7’0 center who is extremely raw, shoots free throws poorly, and has no offensive game. However, what you do have is heart, a true understanding of your role, and one of the best defensive presences in the NBA. As long as you can stay healthy, you will continue to make an impact.
- Shawn Marion – Weren’t you once the hot potato of the NBA? Didn’t the Heat once trade you to the Raptors for Jermaine O’Neal in 2009? And weren’t you then shipped off to Dallas only 5 months later? And didn’t you just lock down Gerald Wallace, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, and Lebron James in 4 consecutive series? Do you want to flip Pat Riley the bird or should we?
- Jason Kidd – You spent the bulk of your career known as “ason Kidd” because you had no ‘J”. Now, at age 38, you suddenly develop a consistent jumpshot. Can you imagine if you had this type of range during your prime? Life is cruel. Trust me, I know the feeling. My folks waited until AFTER I left for college before they brought a dog home for the first time. Regardless, you now have that NBA Championship under your resume.
- JJ Barea – 2 words: Mighty Mouse.
- Cleveland Cavs Fans – Your enemy’s enemy is your friend and I am now certain of one thing – the outcome of these NBA Finals brought you more joy than anything that would have ended with “The Cleveland Cavaliers are NBA Champions”.
- Rick Carlisle – Didn’t just outcoach Erik Spoelstra but also outcoached Nate McMillan, Scott Brooks, and the legendary Phil Jackson. I mean, you outcoached EVERYONE. You may have even outcoached Bill Parcells.
- Chris Bosh – Your season may be over, but congratulations – you have been awarded the lead role in Avatar II. No computer animation necessary.
- NBA – You just completed a magnificent season with the highest ratings in years. Darth Vader has been defeated and we can’t help but crave more. Don’t blow it with an extended lockout. Just don’t.