Was it really that long ago that the Cavaliers led the NBA Finals 2-1 and LeBron James was the unquestioned series MVP and people were acting like it would have been lucky just for Michael Jordan to get his cell number?
The new reality of Golden State as champion makes more sense. It’s built on a collection of young stars and soon-to-be stars that could win several more titles, growing up together just like the San Antonio Spurs did.
That won’t sound good to LeBron but it will sound cruelly familiar.
The first time he went to the Finals with Cleveland in 2007, the Spurs won it in a sweep. LeBron was the Cavs’ only major offensive weapon that time because Cleveland simply
needed more players. This time LeBron lost in six games, his own spectacular efforts notwithstanding, because Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, the stars that made his homecoming logical, were injured.
It’s better this way, and not just because I originally predicted Warriors in five.
Basketball was not built to be a one-man game dominated by a giant talent. If it were, Wilt Chamberlain would have won more than two rings, matching LeBron’s total.
Besides, the TV ratings kill when LeBron is in beast mode, and he’s only in beast mode when he has to be. His preference is to involve all his teammates and to be able to trust them when times get tough. That’s better for him but the numbers LeBron put up in this series, averaging 35.8 points, 13.3 rebounds and 8.8 assists per game, were so epic that it made everybody watch, sports fans or not.
LeBron never would call himself the best player in the world, either, if he were part of an overall great lineup. He’d feel silly and self-concious saying something like that while sitting at the same interview table with a future Hall of Famer like, say, Dwyane Wade.
It was great theater to hear him saying it, though. Some loved it. Some hated it. All agreed with it. Most of all, no one had the option of ignoring it.
Wade, by the way, averaged 34.7 points and 7.8 rebounds while Miami was winning the 2006 NBA Finals MVP award. He’s not as big as LeBron at 6-feet-4 and 212 pounds but in the process of reversing a 2-1 deficit to Dallas Wade was just as impactful.
Could you have made LeBron the Finals MVP here? If the Cavs had pushed it to seven games, sure. He was that much better than everyone else on the court and Cleveland, outside of LeBron, was so much worse than a Finals team should be.
Again, though, it’s better this way. LeBron can add this slight to his “secret motivation” list and we can look forward to seeing him doing it all over again next year, only a little angrier.
That’s LeBron at his scariest, and most entertaining, too.