Let’s talk about sports. Because if you aren’t an NBA fan, you missed out on some quality entertainment tonight.
The Spurs are better than the Heat. Hands down. They have a better coach. They play better team basketball. Their star players know when to step up and when it’s better to let someone else shine. They have better balance. They have better role players. And they have a far better coach. But the Heat have the best player in the series. Or at least… the guy who’s supposed to be the best player in the series. The Heat need him to play like the best player if they want to win it all. Yet, at the end of an unbelievable game six, I’m left to wonder: Did the Heat win because of Lebron, or in spite of him?
Lebron’s career is far from over, but since the beginning people have always liked to wonder if he will be considered the best player ever by the end of it. Throughout this series, though, it’s hard to want to even try to compare him to Michael Jordan. his numbers through this series have been unimpressive for the most part (he got outscored by Mike Miller in one game, and an ancient Manu Ginobili looked better than Lebron in another) His stats at times seemed more comparable to Tony Parker than Jordan. And no one will ever dare compare Parker to the greatest ever. Yes, Lebron did step up and lead a big 4th quarter charge for the Heat tonight. Yes he did make some big shots. But that hardly negates the fact that the Spurs have made him look average through most of the series, and the first 3 quarters of the game. Or the fact that, when he had a chance to give his team the lead with less than a minute to go, he turned the ball over. Twice. And then he had to get bailed out by a prayer of a 3 pointer by sharpshooter Ray Allen to send the game to overtime.
Lebron’s inability to step up prior to late in tonight’s game looks even more depressing when you look at the other stars in the series. of the 6 best players, 5 of them are capable of stepping up and taking control of games – James, Wade, Parker, Ginobili, and Duncan (sorry Chris Bosh, You’re getting no love here. At least you can take consolation in the fact that my wife thinks you look like a velociraptor). Of the 4 that had taken over games at crucial moments before this one… well… they’re all way past their prime…. The fifth, our shining super-star, isn’t. So why was he the last one to take over a game in deciding fashion?
Just when the He had brought the Heat back, Lebron decided to hand the game, and the championship back to the Spurs. It looked so bad after he coughed up the basketball that Heat fans were leaving the arena in the last minute of regulation play, conceding the series to San Antonio. The Heat fans had accepted that James choked the game away. Lucky for him, a miracle saved the day for the Heat.
You’ve got to hand it to the Spurs. After James gift-wrapped the game, Manu Ginobili and Kawhi Leonard choked it right back to the Heat by missing crucial Free throws that could’ve won it. Then they failed to rebound. Then they watched Ray Allen send the game to overtime, where Lebron and the Heat sent the series to game seven.
Keeping all that in mind, Lebron should be sending a thank you note to the Spurs organization for letting him play one more game for the championship. Who deserves the credit for Lebron’s big win. Is it him? Or is it Allen and the Heat role players credit? Or do the Spurs get the credit for failing to take the win in the last minute of the fourth quarter?
Game 7 still has to be played. Lebron has one more chance to put four quarters of dominating basketball together. So far in this finals series, he’s only had one. And that was mired by turnovers that almost ended his hopes for a repeat championship. He is playing against a better team with a better coach. Lebron may not care about his “legacy” now (at least that is what he would like us all to believe) but if he wants to win this championship, he needs to step up in a way that will overcome the fact that his team is simply overmatched. I would like to see that happen. but 5 games and 3 quarters of finals basketball tell me that he just might not be up to the task. And if he isn’t, then at least at this point in his career, there’s no point talking about him by comparing him to the real “greatest player ever.”
(photos from the Denver Post and Chicago Tribune)