Prior to Game 5 of the NBA Finals, the Miami Heat were confident of pulling off a historic comeback from 3-1 down. And honestly, there was an inkling of belief (no matter how small) that it could happen as they jumped out to an early 22-6 first quarter lead.
Then they didn’t make a field goal for nearly seven minutes, while Manu Ginobili went nuts on the other end. He willed the San Antonio Spurs back into the game with 14 points in 10 minutes and from then on, the Spurs were in complete control–just like they had been all series long. And that’s why they are now the reigning NBA champions.
As such, that means Miami will not be making history by becoming only the fourth franchise to win three straight titles, nor will LeBron James be winning “Not three. Not four. Not five” titles anytime soon. But at least he handled himself with class and maturity, which is more than he can say about the last time he and the Heat failed to win a championship.
After the Game 6 loss to the Dallas Mavericks in 2011, James was asked whether it bothered him that several people wanted to see him fail. His response: “Absolutely not.”
“At the end of the day, all the people that are rooting for me to fail have to wake up and have the same life they had before,” he added. “They’ve got the same personal problems they had today and I’m going to continue to live the way I want to live and continue to do the things I want to do and be happy.
“They can get a few days, a few months (or whatever the case may be) of being happy that, not only myself but the Miami Heat, but the Miami Heat not accomplishing our, but, they’ve got to get back to real world at some point.”
Essentially, he might as well have said: “F*** you. My life is still awesome and yours still sucks.” And while there is some truth to that (after all, he’s rich, famous and plays basketball for a living #WINNING), it’s not exactly the most elegant way of dealing with losing and criticism.
Lol heat fans wish they had’em !! The Closer !! Blacc Mamba !! Im cryin wit all these Different Pics… http://t.co/q3KK1Lxkdf
— Desean Jackson (@DeSeanJackson11) June 18, 2014
This year, he has instead chosen to ignore all the criticism of his game, although there can’t really be much lobbed at him individually. LeBron was the only Heat player who actually showed up for the 2014 Finals, with Dwyane Wade disappearing in the final two games, Mario Chalmers struggling with foul trouble, in addition to Chris Bosh failing to get the touches to be much of a factor. Still, he stayed true to his mantra of being his own biggest critic.
“I take a lot of credit and I also take a lot of blame, James said during the exit interviews. “Even this year, I feel like I could have done more… Whether it was playing with more energy in the Finals or leading better or whatever the case may be, I don’t know. It’s just the pressure I put on myself and like I’ve said before, ‘I’m harder on myself than anyone else could be.”
James’ maturity has also been clear to see when handling questions about his future. He has stayed mum on the topic, carefully navigating around the enquiries to avoid making waves by saying: “I haven’t even begun to wrap my mind about it. I need to get away with my family before I start to think about what will happen next.”
The risk in doing so is that it won’t do much to stop the speculation, but it won’t lead to the crazy media circus like the summer of 2010, either – at least that’s what he intends.
Said James: “2010 was out of control. It was the craziest summer I’ve ever been a part of and I learned a lot from it. If I need to go back to that [scenario] then I know what I should and shouldn’t do and figure it out from there.
Miami Heat fans, and staff alike, will be hoping it doesn’t get to the point where he needs to call upon that experience, while the rest of the NBA will be circling around South Beach, clawing at his signature.