LeBron James Cements His Legacy:
If there’s going to be a single moment that forever erases the pain of “The Drive” and the disappointment of “The Fumble”, it was LeBron James literally falling from the sky to slam a late-game fastbreak layup attempt by the Warriors off the glass and keep the Cavaliers’ slim championship hopes alive. After fifty-two years of major sports franchise frustration, the city of Cleveland will get to celebrate a long-awaited championship with a parade on Wednesday that will no doubt be attended by virtually everyone in the region. Employers will give their workers the day off, streets will be closed, adult beverages will flow and for one day, a city will be transformed from one of the losers to that of victors. For most cities, it wouldn’t be a big deal, this sudden change in identity. But we’re talking about Cleveland, one of the most maligned cities on the planet that in the past has had good reason to be a little low on the self-esteem meter, and not all of it is sports related. Whether it was the pollution of Lake Erie, going bankrupt, or even having the Browns pack up and move to Baltimore, the populace has had good reasons to feel a bit underappreciated. But all of that changed with Cleveland’s 93 – 89 win at Golden State that completed the biggest Finals series comeback in history, as they erased a 3 – 1 deficit with two wins at an arena where the home team had only lost once during the regular season.
Since the game is now thirty-six hours old, I choose to focus more on the state of LeBron James’ legacy. My wife asked me yesterday why James was disliked so much. I didn’t have an answer for her except to explain what I thought were the reasons, even though I don’t understand it either. When LeBron James decided to leave the Cavaliers, he made the mistake of make the announcement on ESPN, which had offered him a payday that he donated to his foundation. But unfortunately for James, either his advisers didn’t do him any favors or the arrogance of youth gave him the confidence to think he knew better. Either way, Cleveland fans reviled him and other league followers joined in as James took “his talents to South Beach”. To make matters worse, along with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, he predicted surpassing Michaels Jordan’s six titles. So if anything, James was guilty of youthful exuberance and a lack of awareness of his impact on fans. But it still doesn’t fully explain the outpouring of such a high level of dislike, or even hate. For that, I don’t have an explanation.
LeBron James just completed a series during which he led both teams in every major statistical category, the first time in the history of the league that a player has accomplished such a feat. He has led his teams to six consecutive Finals appearances. This title was his third in five seasons, during which he was the MVP each time. His team has won with him scoring or feeding others or both. The Cavaliers won two games in last year’s Finals against a fully healthy Warriors team primarily because James put the Cavs, a collection of role players on his back before running out of steam. He’s 6-8, weighs 270 pounds and can run the court, play defense, make jumpers, block shots and drive to the basket. In short, LeBron is virtually unstoppable. Off the court, there isn’t a hint of scandal, he raises millions for charity and is active in his northeast Ohio region. After winning two titles during his tenure with the Heat, he returned home to Cleveland to bring a championship to the Cavaliers, a goal he achieved in only his second season with a team still learning how to play together.
For those critical of LeBron James, I have some questions for you. Have you ever changed jobs for more money, opportunity or just because you were unhappy? If so, then shut up. Are you generally considered the best in the world at what you do? If not, I suggest you stop criticizing someone who is and work at getting better. Have you ever had to perform your job in front of millions of people and been held to a higher standard than virtually everyone at your company or on your staff? If not, then I suggest you withhold judgment of someone who has. Is LeBron James perfect? Of course not. Is he deserving of the criticism that is bestowed on him? No way. We should be celebrating excellence, not tearing down success.