by Ryan Isley
Just a little under two years ago, LeBron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers and joined the Miami Heat on a nationally televised special on ESPN known as “The Decision.” From that moment on, nothing has been the same when it comes to LeBron – and that is squarely on his shoulders.
The 27-year-old has always wanted to be liked – maybe even more than he wanted to win. He tossed most of his likability out the window in that fateful night at the Boys and Girls Club with Jim Gray.
The day after LeBron announced he would be joining the Heat and therefore teaming up with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, the three of them were introduced in Miami and LeBron set outlandish expectations for the newly formed trio.
When asked how many championships the new super-team would win, Lebron left no doubt that he expected these three would be one of the greatest teams in the history of the NBA.
“Not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven…” LeBron famously said, insinuated that the Heat would win at least eight championships.
Now it is his time to do something about it or allow the critics who call him a choker and say he does not have the killer mentality of a winner to be right.
With the Heat already 0-for-1 in their quest to win the first of those eight after losing to the Dallas Mavericks last season, the pressure has mounted for them to finally come through. After the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the Heat in game one of the NBA Finals this past Tuesday, people were already crowning the Thunder as the NBA champions.
If the Heat are going to come back and win this series, it is going to have to fall on LeBron’s shoulders. And why shouldn’t it? He is the one who left his team on national television, he is the one who predicted all of the championships and he is also the one who said “the way we are going to challenge each other in practice, once the games start it’s going to be easy.”
If LeBron is going to take the blame no matter what happens when the Heat loses, it is time for him to tap into his inner Kobe Bryant and just take over. Time for him to say forget my teammates, forget coach Erik Spoelstra, forget the past.
The time is now for LeBron to earn his first ring.
Sure, LeBron has undoubtedly been the best player for Miami in this postseason, averaging 30.7 points, 9.6 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game in the team’s 19 playoff games so far. That includes LeBron putting the Heat on his back ever since they trailed the Indiana Pacers two games to one in the second round, as he has averaged 33 points per game in those 11 games and has scored 30 or more in nine of those contests.
Despite scoring 30 points in game one of the NBA Finals, LeBron didn’t do enough to help his team win as he was just 2-for-6 from the field and scored seven points in the fourth quarter while Kevin Durant of the Thunder scored 17 points on 6-for-9 shooting in the same quarter.
LeBron has had a way of starting off the games great and carrying the Heat before deferring to Wade late in the game when the game is on the line. It is time for LeBron to carry the Heat for all four quarters – or at least when the game is in the balance.
Even the most adamant of supporters had to admit that LeBron didn’t have the same swagger in the fourth quarter that Durant had – the swagger that is needed to win big playoff games. But we have seen that LeBron has the ability to deliver when needed most as well.
With the Heat trailing the Boston Celtics three games to two in the Eastern Conference Finals, LeBron showed up with a look on his face in game six that many said they have never seen. It led to the three-time NBA MVP scoring 30 points on 12-of-14 in the first half en route to a 98-79 Heat victory. He finished the game with 45 points, 15 rebounds and five assists – only the second player in NBA history to turn the feat.
He then led the Heat to another win in game seven to win the Eastern Conference by scoring 31 points and grabbing 12 rebounds in a 101-88 victory.
If the Heat are going to win the NBA title – or even have a chance – they need LeBron to step up and take over like he did in games six and seven against Boston. He needs to have that look in his eyes like he had in game six and the body language that he knew everything he tossed up was going to go in the basket.
As great as Wade has been for the Heat in the past, he has even admitted that he knows this is LeBron’s team. Of course, that could just be a ploy by Wade seeing as how he has underperformed during these playoffs but either way the comment is correct – it IS LeBron’s team.
In Cleveland and again in Miami, LeBron has been a pass-first player late in games, trying to get his teammates open shots. Even if that is the correct basketball play in the moment, it is something LeBron can no longer afford to do if he wants to shed his label of being a choker.
It is all right there in front of “The Chosen One” – he just needs to choose the right path. And that path would be to take over the game, no matter the consequences. He needs to be the reason they win, but go down emptying every bullet from his gun if the Heat fail.
The problem is that LeBron has never shown that he has it inside of him to consistently be the guy down the stretch. If he wants to start on that path to eight championships, he will need to quickly get over his fear of failure and lay it all on the line.
It’s what he wanted….now he has to deliver.
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