With the Miami Heat falling short in the NBA Finals, many are going to start throwing negative adjectives around to describe everyone and everything involving the team. Folks will mock their “not three, not four, not five …” speech, resort back to Chris Bosh is a dinosaur rhetoric and call LeBron James everything from a choke artist to a failure.
I am all for insightful commentaries involving this team. Heck, even speculation about the Heat’s future as far as retaining their stars, Dwyane Wade‘s contract and the aging roleplayers’ worth are things that can be talked about without it feeling like hyperbolic nonsense.
However, the old LeBron James narrative is going to resurface, which isn’t an insightful narrative. Much more of one side being hateful against him for reasons lost on me. Instead of appreciating the excellence, only the negative will be talked about.
We started the LeBron James odyssey many moons ago when he was just a high school phenom. Unlike so many before him, James actually lived up to his other-worldly hype when he debuted with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
But because all of our attention spans can only run as long as the only season of Cop Rock, people started to turn on the King. A large portion of fans and the media started to say James was not clutch, that he would never win a title, that — despite leading the corpses of Larry Hughes and others to an NBA Finals — he wasn’t as good as everyone acted like he was.
While the narrative won’t be exactly the same, it is going to be similar. Really, just modified a bit. Instead of him never being able to reach the top of the NBA and win a title, anti LeBron people will say he was only able to do so because he left Cleveland to join two other superstars in Miami.
That is partially correct, because he probably would have not won in Cleveland, but that has more to do with their owner’s ineptitude as far as their roster goes. Even with that being said, though, it is worth noting that most NBA championship teams had more than one guy carrying the load.
People want to talk about the San Antonio Spurs being the great team, that they are not about a single individual, which is true to a certain degree. The Spurs ability to play team basketball does not mean they didn’t have stars.
Tim Duncan is the best power forward to ever step foot on the planet, Tony Parker is the league’s second best point guard, Manu Ginobili was one of the better 2 guards in the league for a long time, and now Kawhi Leonard has emerged as a really good overall player. Three future Hall of Famers and a budding top-15 talent, but no stars, right?
The Lakers teams of Magic Johnson, James Worthy, Michael Cooper, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and others were not full of stars? Even the holier than thou Michael Jordan Bulls featured teams with Hall of Fame worthy players like Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman.
But, again, people like those teams and those players, so they didn’t do it in a way — I guess — that was as off-putting as three guys taking a pay cut to win a title, which is a funny aside to itself. Honestly, it is okay for teams to have superstars as long as they are forced to play with each other via the draft, but players selflessly taking less money somehow makes it worse? Okay, right.
This entire Miami Heat run is going to be considered a failure by some. Making the NBA Finals four of their first four years together, winning two titles in that span, doesn’t exactly scream failure.
If you’re holding them up to that pep-rally speech as a standard, well, you are your own special kind of special. That might be what the Big Three said in the moment, but that was for their fans — it wasn’t a sincere declaration of expectations for themselves.
If you want to compare LeBron James to Michael Jordan, while using the myth and legend of Jordan against James, that is fine. Although, it is worth noting that while Jordan is widely considered the GOAT, he had as much help in getting a consistent team built around his strengths and weaknesses as a player and had one of the greatest coaches of all-time in Phil Jackson in his corner.
James had a realistic three-year window for success. With Wade on a rapid decline, the Heat not doing a tremendous job of replacing roleplayers who were starting to smell like death, this season was more like LeBron James playing with the Cleveland Cavaliers again, but it just so happened to be with guys who had notable names and a catchy Big Three nickname — and not a guy named Daniel Gibson.
We are also going to see James’ overall record in the NBA Finals thrown all over. As if it is worse to go to the Finals and lose than it is to not make it at all.
So, apparently, we are going to punish James for carrying a horrible Cleveland team on his back and losing in the Finals, for losing in the Finals in his first year with a new team and for losing in the Finals with a team that didn’t have nearly as much depth or overall talent as the names on the back of the jerseys would suggest.
I mean, that sounds smart. Let’s keep loving Chris Paul because he can’t even make it to the conference finals, but since his record in the NBA Finals is 0-0 it means he isn’t a choker or something — likely something, but narratives, man.
I’m not saying that this season was anything but disappointing for the Heat. Their only objective was to win NBA championships. They failed their objective this year.
However, that doesn’t mean every player on this team failed, especially a player who was the biggest reason for any of their successes anyway. Pick at James for not being more aggressive or something, but using heat-induced cramps as proof that he isn’t Michael Jordan is like my 5-year-old daughter’s inability to drive a car makes her less of a NASCAR driver.
Some things people just can’t control. I swear it. It doesn’t always have to mean something.
I get it, though. Seriously, I do. The headline “Welp, There’s Always Next Year” doesn’t read as well as “LeBron James Ate a Member of the Endangered Species List,” so a large portion of the new, but not new at all, James narrative will be pushed by people like me.
Just try to remember that none of this is new, we just keep changing the standards for him, as LeBron James is the first true superstar of the social media era and he is going to pay the price for our inability to have rational thought or patience.
It’s just easier to blame the biggest name, rely on tired narratives or look for some bigger picture in a game. The Finals wasn’t a Shakespearean story about two different commodities battles it out for supremacy. It was about two really good basketball teams, one who was better the year before and one that was better this year.
It wasn’t about a shift in the way the NBA will be played or how teams will be built going forward. Believe or not, the Spurs have not won the NBA title in every year since the existence of Tim Duncan. Finally, the NBA Finals was not about a player’s legacy.
Yes, LeBron James is getting older, has played in more games at 30 than Jordan did at this point, but his legacy is far from being written.
Because, you know, he is still actually playing.
Every offseason we ask for more out of James. First it was about winning, then getting a better postgame, then better TV commercials, then having a better grasp of placating to Wade’s ego, now it is going to be something about something that he has already done — win NBA titles.
So, yeah, as much as we will continue to knock James for whatever because I actually don’t know, we haven’t been able to actually improve our own complaints about whatever it is that we complain about in his game. We will just retread what it is that we have already said, avoid any logical conversations that could be had involving him, and use not-so-funny memes of LeBron crying to make our point.
All while screaming the name of Michael Jordan to the rooftops because … Space Jam — I guess.
Even R. Kelly would be so disappointed in us all.