A large portion of LeBron James’ legacy is at stake in these NBA Finals.
When he joined Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami in 2010 in one of the biggest mergers in sports annals, America watched as LeBron boldly declared that the Heat would win “not two, not three, not four, not five...” NBA titles. Now, approaching the end of Year 3 of that prediction, LeBron and the Heat are 1-1 in bagging championship rings.
The quest for Title No. 2 starts at 8 p.m. Thursday when Miami hosts the San Antonio Spurs in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. All eyes will be on LeBron as he continues to try to back up his claim that the Heat will eventually collect more rings under his leadership than any team except the Bill Russell-led Boston Celtics, who won 11 championships.
This was a self-serving, show of arrogance gone wild by LeBron, who was adamant about reinventing the basketball wheel when he took his talents to South Beach while spitting on the city of Cleveland in the process.
LeBron’s prediction caught a lot of folks by surprise, including some Heat players. That’s because a lot of the Heat’s success depends on more than what LeBron can bring to the court.
Basketball isn’t like tennis or golf, where an athlete can control his or her own success, and where his or her actions are solely responsible for wins or losses.
In basketball, LeBron needs help to back up his bold words. He needs Dwyane Wade to be Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh to be Chris Bosh, Chris “Birdman” Andersen to not lose his cool, and the other Heat players to be at their best.
Furthermore, LeBron needs Heat coach Erik Spoelstra to have the right personnel on the court at the right time. And he needs the Spurs to cooperate and not be so efficient.
One or two slip-ups in either of those categories and this series will be over and the LeBron bashing will begin.
A lot of things must go the Heat’s way for it to win this series against a talented Spurs team seeking its fifth championship since 1999.
After losing to the Mavericks in six games in the 2011 Finals, LeBron and the Heat ran through Oklahoma City last year, winning the Finals in five games. It won’t be that easy against a Spurs team that can slice, dice and beat you up in many different ways.
The Spurs haven’t played a game since sweeping the Memphis Grizzlies on May 27 in the Western Conference finals. San Antonio is 12-2 in this year’s playoffs, including a first-round sweep of the Lakers.
And if you’re telling me Spurs coach Gregg Popovich had 10 days to concoct a scheme to contain LeBron, I’m going to roll all the way with Popovich on this one.
History shows that Popovich is one of the NBA’s greatest coaches. If LeBron didn’t know this before today, he’ll soon get a refresher course.
Then again, LeBron is already 0-4 in the Finals against Popovich after his Cavaliers were beaten by the Spurs in 2007. Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Matt Bonner were on hand then and are now, too.
For LeBron, the worst part of his current equation is that he could indeed have a series for the ages. He could go out and average a triple-double against the Spurs.
But LeBron will probably leave the court in a week or two hanging his head with a 1-3 record in NBA Finals.
The ball’s in his court.