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2012 NBA Finals Heat-Thunder Game 5: Thy Kingdom Come

Jun 22, 2012, 1:27 AM EST

Oklahoma City Thunder v Miami Heat - Game Five Getty Images

“We learn little from victory, much from defeat.” – Japanese proverb

“It’s about damn time.” –  LeBron James on winning the NBA championship

He’s there. After the Heat’s 121-106 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder, he’s finally there.

LeBron James has reached the place where so few stars reach. He is certified. He is bonafide. He is the best player in the land, the best player in the start, the middle and the end of the game, the NBA MVP, the NBA Finals MVP, and an NBA champion. There will be talk of how many more he must or will win. But it does not take away what he has accomplished, what he has shown, what he has surrendered in his pursuit of being great.

James entered the league as the most heralded player in the history of the league. There were no doubters. He was always “the Chosen One.” He was the singular most athletic player to ever enter the league with his skillset. And from the start, he wowed us. We looked to the future, for what he would accomplish. And we expected, always expected, because his marketing team told us to, because pundits to, and by extension, he told us to.

But it never came.

There was greatness, but it was always followed by defeat. Disappointment and debate about whether he was overrated, a sham, a product of hype and not product. Hardware defines this league. It’s the lens through which legacy is measured. Without it, James was nothing but numbers in the eyes of so many. Some have tried to note that what made him great was his production, that he was the player. But he needed the results.

He has them. He’s there.

LeBron James is a champion.

To focus on comparing him to Michael Jordan is flawed. No one is. But to the same point, no one is LeBron James. Nothing showed that like these playoffs, like these Finals. James’ dominance was not two-dimensional. It wasn’t just scoring points and defending his man on the other end. It was the modern NBA player, brought to the nexus of ability. It was working the post, scoring on the drop-step hook, challenging the pick and roll, providing help, recovering, blocking the shot, grabbing the rebound, running the floor, finishing at the other end. Repeat. Over and over again.

In Game 2 it was scoring, in Game 5 it was passing. And scoring. And rebounding. James’ first triple-double of the season lands in his final game of the season. No player since Wilt Chamberlain has been able to impact the game on so many levels at such a high level from so many positions. And James plays in an era of legends. His game is the drive and finish, the drive and kick to the open shooter, and now the post-move to the drop-step hook. It’s the offensive rebound for the muscling putback, as he showed in the willingness to do the dirty work for maybe the first time in his career. It’s the timely three-pointer. It’s the board over bigger opponents. It’s the no-look whip pass. It’s the ability to do all these things, lock down the best player on the other team, and do it for 40-plus minutes a night.

James learned something from that defeat last year, learned something from this season, and it all clicked in the Boston series. He put away those childish things and became a man. No more dancing before the clock struck zero. No picture-taking miming. No laughs. James was simultaneously at peace and more driven, more business-like and yet enjoying his game. He brought it all together. Maybe that’s what we learn most from his playoffs performance.

James may have needed to team up with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to win the NBA title. But it was James that brought the team together. It was James that made the model work. It says something about the greatness of his game that he was able to take a team of stars and still be the most important player on the team by a mile. He was the scorer, the rebounder, the point guard, the creator, the playmaker, the shotblocker.

But move past that. That’s basketball stuff.

James lead in these playoffs, for maybe the first time in his life. He wasn’t waiting for other people to tell him what to do. He did not try to be Michael Jordan hitting mid-range jumpers. He said “I am bigger than you. I am badder than you. I am better than you” and then he entered the post and obliterated the Thunder. They doubled? He found open shooters.

Those players are going to hit those shots because that’s what happens when you’re open. Instead of Michael Jordan, James won the title like Hakeem Olajuwon, being more talented inside, and getting the ball to open shooters because of doubles. He took responsibility for his actions. Last year, last year’s Finals, the failures throughout his career, the team’s struggles this year. He looked inside himself. We can’t know what that process was like or what we found when he saw that mirror. But we know what he showed us when he came out of it.

There is more to a King than lineage.

LeBron James discovered it, and in doing so has taken his rightful place. Nothing can take away this moment, nothing can change his legacy. He’s not through, he hasn’t lived up to “not 2, not 3…” or whatever standard you want to find. But you also can no longer list him as the man without a ring. That era is over.

Crown him. Witness. Give that man his ring.

Long live the King.

  1. paulhargis53 - Jun 22, 2012 at 12:16 PM

    No, imforbigblue, The overall king would be Bill Russell. 11 titles in 13 years. 8 consecutive.
    The NBA didn’t begin when Jordan started winning.
    I don’t understand people not having any sense of history.

    • Scott - Jun 23, 2012 at 9:51 AM

      Paul, I dont think people forget the greatness or history of Bil Russell. Obviously, 11 titles in 13 years will never be matched, but do you not think that if Jordan didn’t “retire” for those two seasons, Jordan wouldnt have another 2 titles, making 8 straight? Jordan was more dominant simple because of the position he played. Also, after Magic and Brid made the NBA relevant again, Jordan took that popularity to a new level. Not to mention that Russell was/is a bitter man who never embraced the city of Boston. Not saying I knew what was really going on or ever walked in his shoes, but he never loved Boston.

  2. passerby23 - Jun 22, 2012 at 12:56 PM

    A comment on the Lebron “hate”:

    There is a big difference between disliking someone and respecting them. I do not like Lebron, but I give him respect.

    I don’t know if the whole Decision thing, the pep rally, the promise of multiple championships, the showboating, and so on can ever be redeemed. I get that he apologized, but it seemed only to save face because he didn’t like the criticism. He did mature in these playoffs. He still has this attitude that his treatment has been unfair, that people are just “haters” for no reason which is not true. I was a big Lebron fan when he was in Cleveland and, while he did get undue criticism for not winning the big one, he was still liked and it was widely acknowledged that he carried overachieving teams. I don’t like it. I don’t like the sort of self-entitled persona that he and the Heat give off.

    That being said, I give credit where credit is due. He is the best player today. He is the most dynamic player in the game and he clearly carried the Heat in the playoffs. The Heat deserved to win this series and Lebron clearly deserved MVP.

  3. sockherplayher - Jun 22, 2012 at 1:31 PM

    ronny turiaf has 2 rings now! all hail the real king! haha

  4. barbeaux - Jun 22, 2012 at 2:37 PM

    On a side note, isn’t it sad in regards to what ESPN has become?

  5. ajpurp - Jun 22, 2012 at 2:39 PM

    And Kobe said “trade me” when he didn’t get help, DG never gave him a thing, not an ounce of help because he was selfish with his money and was relying on LBJ’s sense of loyalty. Screwed him over for years with crap teams, I would have left too, as would Kobe, Magic, and Jordan.

  6. ljl2 - Jun 22, 2012 at 2:42 PM

    Can we stop with the religious imagery? Whether or not you believe in a god or the Christian God, the idea of using things attributed to describe that god’s reign to describe a human is a little messed up. Folks here in Ohio didn’t like it when LeBron was here. Still think its messed up.

    • Scott - Jun 23, 2012 at 10:00 AM

      uh, its not religious imagery. King James is not in reference to religion. King James I of England had the bible transcribed and reprinted, then known as the King James version. If people make the mistake of relating LBJ’s nickname to religious imagery, then oops on them. Actually, its kind of a cool nickname. James had been practicing with NBA players when he was 17 years old and most of them acknowledged that he would be a great NBA player someday. The original King James inheirited the throne at the age of one. Many thought LBJ would be a great player from a very young age. It kind of goes together.

      • ljl2 - Jun 25, 2012 at 12:59 PM

        King James was directly in reference to religious imagery as it was a nickname that LeBron garnered during his time at a Catholic high school. I was not so much referring to the “King James” nickname though. I was speaking of the “Thy kingdom come…” which comes directly from the “Lord’s Prayer”. I’m from the same area LeBron grew up in and people have always felt uncomfortable with his nickname and the religious connotations that went along with it (the Nike commercial set in a church, the giant billboard that Nike put up with him posed in a likeness of Jesus with the phrase “witness”). I understand the history of King James I, that was not my point. My point was the imagery that is used around him.

  7. paulhargis53 - Jun 22, 2012 at 3:59 PM

    Magic is on record as saying he wouldn’t have done what those 3 did, Bird as well.
    They were to competitive to join forces.
    Jordan was fiercely competitive, so he wouldn’t have either.

    Only the bitch Kobe would pull that, besides thes three jackasses.

    They don’t make the finals next year.

    • Scott - Jun 23, 2012 at 10:07 AM

      This is so funny. They say they wouldnt have done what LeBron did, but Magic was on a team with Kareem and got James Worthy in the ’82 draft. Bird got Parish and McHale in his second season. Plus they were stars in major markets. Of course they wouldnt leave those situations. What Bird and Magic should have said is I have no idea what I would have done in his situation. This, I am more competitive than that is amazingly ridiculous.

    • Scott - Jun 23, 2012 at 10:08 AM

      hope to see your comments next season Paul, when the Heat repeat.

  8. diablito0402 - Jun 22, 2012 at 6:45 PM

    Well perkinns had his ring because of him, boston never did anything with out him, and sorry, now a days aint basketball, i grew up watching jordan magic and bird, that was basketball, right now lebron goes to the hole and someone in the 5th role sneezes and they call a foul, the refs call a zizzy game now a days

    • Scott - Jun 23, 2012 at 10:10 AM

      obvioulsy you were little kid watching those other stars, because it was going on for Magic, Larry and Michael. The term Jordan Rules isnt about how much MJ dominated. NBA superstars get calls…live with it. It has been that way for 50 years.

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