Skip to content

If Spurs win, it is LeBron’s legacy that will take biggest hit

Jun 18, 2013, 12:00 PM EDT

Miami Heat v San Antonio Spurs - Game 5 Getty Images

Only LeBron James could average 21.6 points, 10.8 rebounds, 6.8 assists and 2.2 steals a game through the NBA Finals and look like he is being passive and not doing enough.

He has for much of the NBA Finals looked like the physically best player on the floor but one that couldn’t impose his will on the game for any extended period of time. It’s true of LeBron and the Heat as a team.

If the Spurs win Game 6 Tuesday night — they are up 3-2 and you know they are going to come out with a great game plan and exploit every Heat mistake — it will signal a shift in the conversation about LeBron’s ultimately legacy.

After last year’s Finals we started to wonder if he would live up to his potential, if LeBron would end up in the Magic, MJ, Kareem “greatest of all time” tier. Lose and will appear to be more in the Wilt Chamberlain tier — the greatest physical specimen of his day, a guy ahead of his time, who could not get his team to beat the best teams of his era.

LeBron is 28, in the prime of his career, it is too early to say what we will think of him a decade from now. It’s a world of instant analysis (this blog is certainly part of that) but some things take time to fully come into focus. Legacy is one of those things.

But another loss, making LeBron 1-3 in the NBA Finals, starts to change the conversation.

“I have to come up big, for sure, in Game 6,” LeBron said after Game 5. “Me being one of the leaders of this team, I do put a lot of pressure on myself to force a Game 7, and I look forward to the challenge. We have to worry about Game 6 and going back home, being confident about our game, being confident about getting a win, which we are.”

You could explain away LeBron’s first loss in the NBA Finals — he single-handedly carried an inferior Cavaliers team to the big stage, only to fall to a much better Spurs team. Even the 2011 Heat you can say was a great team still figuring out who it was. Those Heat were learning to play together and had a thin bench. Last season’s NBA Finals win, where LeBron owned games late, seemed to suggest LeBron and the Heat had figured it out.

But all season he — and Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh, and all the Heat —coasted for long stretches. After cruising through two rounds of the playoffs, the Heat have been intermittently dominant and pedestrian, unable to impose their will on games for a full 48 minutes. Particularly in the Finals the counterpunching Spurs have taken advantage of Heat mistakes and withstood almost every Heat run. The Spurs have been the more consistent, and better, team.

The pressure of legacy in Game 6 is not on the Spurs — they already go down as one of the greats of their era — it is on the Heat. Miami doesn’t have the excuses of not knowing how to play together or a thin bench anymore.

The pressure is self-imposed; LeBron went public with “not two, not three, not four” and set the bar high.

Now he has to reach it or get called out for it.

Latest Posts
  1. PBT Extra: What does Kevin Love’s injury mean for his summer plans?

    Apr 28, 2015, 4:30 PM EDT

    Cleveland Cavaliers v Boston Celtics - Game Three Getty Images

    I expect he stays in Cleveland, but nothing is a lock.

  2. Coach Dwane Casey’s fate undecided as Raptors head into turbulent offseason

    Apr 28, 2015, 3:44 PM EDT

    Toronto Raptors v Washington Wizards - Game Four Getty Images

    It looks like Casey will be back. Probably. But nothing is certain.

  3. Report: Lakers interested in signing Rajon Rondo as a free agent ‘only at a certain low price’

    Apr 28, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT

    Rajon Rondo AP

    Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak both remain interested in Rondo, but have cooled a bit in terms of how high they’ll go to retain his services.

  4. Anonymous GM: If Brook Lopez wants to stay with Nets, ‘he should be able to get whatever he wants’

    Apr 28, 2015, 1:40 PM EDT

    Atlanta Hawks v Brooklyn Nets Getty Images

    Lopez has a player option for $16.7 million next season, but could opt out to re-sign a longer deal this summer — with Brooklyn, or with someone else.

  5. No Kevin Love, no J.R. Smith to start, how much trouble is Cleveland in?

    Apr 28, 2015, 12:30 PM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpwzjymvhyzgwzgy5njixztvmzwrlzgzmymqxyza3ytg51 AP

    The second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs just got very, very interesting.

  6. Jarrett Jack fires back at Paul Pierce after Deron Williams’ breakout Game 4 performance

    Apr 28, 2015, 11:10 AM EDT

    Deron Williams, Paul Pierce AP

    Williams silenced his critics with a 35-point outing, and Jack had some words for Pierce afterward.

  7. Jason Kidd makes aggressive timeout call late in Bucks’ win over Bulls (VIDEO)

    Apr 28, 2015, 9:50 AM EDT

    Milwaukee Bucks v Chicago Bulls - Game Five Getty Images

    Kidd jumped up and down to make sure to get the timeout he wanted.

  8. PBT Extra: Rockets must adjust to new Mavericks starting lineup in Game 5

    Apr 28, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT

    Dirk Nowitzki, J.J. Barea Dirk Nowitzki, J.J. Barea

    Houston needs to make adjustments to the new Dallas starting lineup.

  9. Portland comes from 10 down in fourth quarter to win 99-92, stay alive in series

    Apr 28, 2015, 2:13 AM EDT

    Memphis Grizzlies v Portland Trail Blazers - Game Four Getty Images

    Without Mike Conley to check him Damian Lillard ran free.

  10. PBT Extra with NBASavant.com: Wizard’s defense peaking at right time

    Apr 27, 2015, 9:01 PM EDT

    Toronto Raptors v Washington Wizards - Game Four Toronto Raptors v Washington Wizards - Game Four

    Washington’s averaged defender distance to the Toronto shooter was 3.55 feet, the closest defense any team played in the first round of the playoffs.

  11. Report: Chandler Parsons to have knee surgery, could require microfracture surgery

    Apr 27, 2015, 7:58 PM EDT

    Dallas Mavericks v Houston Rockets- Game One Getty Images

    The doctor will decide if microfracture is needed while doing a scope.

Featured video

Boston defended LeBron well, it didn't matter
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. R. Rondo (5211)
  2. C. Parsons (4110)
  3. K. Durant (3776)
  4. K. Love (3750)
  5. T. Parker (3601)
  1. M. Conley (3599)
  2. K. Bryant (3589)
  3. P. George (3384)
  4. D. Lee (3317)
  5. P. Beverley (3233)