To be the best, a player must compete at the highest level. It isn’t enough to just have prolific success throughout the regular season while competing valiantly throughout the playoffs. If LeBron James wants to permanently establish himself in the NBA as an individual superstar that doesn’t have to constantly live in Michael Jordan’s shadow, he will have to lead his team to a second consecutive NBA Finals victory.
While it could argued that James’ reputation was irreparably damaged after he was bounced out of the finals in 2011, the accomplishments he has put forth since then demonstrate James’ ability to overcome demoralizing pit falls. Between winning a 4th MVP and leading his team to a twenty seven game winning streak (second highest in NBA history), James’ has gone to extraordinary lengths to separate himself from the pack as the most dynamic and gifted player currently in the NBA. However, all of these prestigious accolades will be for naught if James and company doesn’t finish out the season with a world championship. Without the tangible hardware, LeBron James and the Miami Heat will be an utter disappointment and will go down as a great team that just couldn’t play big when everything was on the line.
With that being said, the Miami Heat appears to be ready to fight vigorously to defend their title while permanently establishing themselves as one of the greatest teams of all time. A championship win would mean more than just another set of rings and a glorious banner to hang from the rafters at the American Airlines Arena. It would conclude a miraculous and dominant epic tale about a team that played with a sense of purpose and an undying determination to win. The Heat team of the 2012-2013 seasons would be forever idolized as the pinnacle moment for LeBron James as both a superior individual athlete and also as a reliable leader who did his part for the team and not just for himself.
So far, the Miami Heat has proven that they can combat supreme amounts of adversity particularly when they are in “must win” situations. After losing the first game at home, the Heat came back with an unquenchable vengeance as LeBron James stepped onto to the court as the Heat’s fearless leader earning himself a triple-double while squelching the San Antonio Spurs in game two. Yet, even with this resurgent performance, the Heat still exhibited signs of inconsistency as they were blown out on the Spurs home court by thirty-six points in game three. Even with this devastating defeat, LeBron James and the Heat managed to regroup mentally and physically and came out aggressive and ready to put their reputations on the line for a much-needed victory on the road. Not only did LeBron James appear be reinvigorated by putting on his first extravagant shooting barrage of the series by scoring thirty three points, the Heat came out as a cohesive unit and stole a decisive game on the road with a final score of 109-93.
While it can’t be ignored how well the Heat play while under immense pressure to perform admirably, they lack one intangible which is needed to finish out this series once and for all; an innate killer extinct. With the exception of last night, LeBron James has lacked the constant aggression and merciless mentality that he is typically known for in critical games. In the first three games of the series, LeBron James couldn’t even manage to score more than twenty points. Although he was a dynamic facilitator in game two, he still needs to do what he does best in order to decisively beat the Spurs; he needs to make his open jumpers while avidly pursuing the basket. While the Spurs have intelligently kept LeBron James in check with a zone defense, James is more than capable of pursuing the basket. Doing so will either garner him a personal foul or will effectively distract the defense into leaving wide-open shooters on the perimeter. Without this constant pursuit and fearless aggression, the Heat will become a static squad that will relinquish much needed possessions while being forced into taking deep shots which will typically result in easy defensive rebounds for the Spurs.
In the end, if the Heat loses this series, the onus and contempt will be directed towards LeBron James. While he clearly won’t be to blame for every failure that will come as result of the loss, he will be the focal point of discussion because of his the insurmountable pedestal he has placed himself on ever since he became a member of the Miami Heat. When all is said and done, if LeBron James can’t step up and fulfill his role as the best player in the world then like it or not, James’ prestigious accolades and god like abilities won’t be enough to give him another pass. Instead, James will have permanently condemned himself as another legend that couldn’t step up when it mattered most.