When Lebron James was drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers back in 2003, I expected him to fail. No, it was more than that. I wanted him to fail. I was so totally over him before his first NBA exhibition game, before he even made it to training camp. I was sick of the non-stop hype and the endless Lebron-a-thons on ESPN. I didn't want to see high school basketball games on my 24-hour sports networks. I didn't want to pick up the newspaper and read about some 17-year-old kid getting a brand new Hummer under highly suspicious circumstances.

At the time, Lebron seemed like everything that was wrong with professional basketball: high school phenoms getting courted and crowned before they were ready for it, watering down the talent pool and wreaking havok on little things like fundmentals. So all in all, I was ready to have a big happy when the kid fell flat on his face with a resounding splat.

But I was wrong.

I came to that conclusion about halfway through his first season. He could play. No, I mean, he could play. Points, rebounds, assists...he could do it all. Okay, his defense was (and sometimes still is) a little suspect, but so what? He was everything the experts had thought and hoped he could be. He even displayed a (seemingly) sincere desire to include his teammates in the action.

So yeah, Lebron proved me wrong. And I came to genuinely enjoy watching him play, although there have been a few blips here and there. I felt like he started gunning during the second half of the 2005-06 season, and most of the basketball world felt like he took the first half of this season off, or, at the very least, took things very easy.

But last night...it changed everything. My buddy Reef pointed out to me just a few days ago that there hadn't been any single-game scoring explosions so far in the 2007 playoffs. Amare Stoudemire had a 38-point game, and there have been a smattering of 30-something games by this or that player (Lebron, Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki, Baron Davis, Deron Williams, Carlos Boozer, et al.). But there hadn't yet been a dominant "Gimme the damn ball" moment in the playoffs, or even in the regular season, since Kobe went off on his string of 50-point games.

I had to stop and think about the situation. I mean, that's what we're supposed to want, right? Balanced scoring, everybody being involved, hard cuts, ball movement, easy baskets, superstars deferring to their teammates. And that's what we've gotten. It should be our collective dream come true, but it would taste a lie if I said that it didn't feel like something had been...missing.

Well, The King gave it to us last night. He gave us one of those special moments, and it's going right up there on the shelf with Magic jumping center, M.J. scoring 63, Larry stealing the ball, Magic's skyhook, Larry versus Dominque, Michael versus the world, and so on. I had been this close to giving up on the NBA playoffs this year, ever since David Stern decided that zero tolerance really meant zero fun. I was fading, but Lebron was standing there with the difibrillator, ready to perform CPR.

Thank the mercy of all-mighty Zeus, I watched the game, I recorded it, I burned it to DVD (with, uh, the express written consent of the NBA, of course). And every time I start to get a little down on the state of the NBA, I'm going to pull it out and watch it. Thanks for proving me wrong, Lebron.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...
Not to take away anything Lebron did last night, but one performance does not a champion make. Intensity is temporary, greatness is sustained. MJ was intense before and after the cleveland game. Lebron mailed in the regular season, most of the playoffs, and let's not forget the team USA incident. MJ didn't need anyone to push him to be great. Lebron does. The people and circumstances that surround him in the next year or two will determine whether or not we'll see the revival of the NBA.

Blogger Chris said...
I smell hater. Dude's 22. Give him a break.

Anonymous joe said...
maybe its just that i know what happened by looking at the results on the internet, but it wasn't as spectacular as i had expected as i watched a reply. i dunno, maybe it could've used drives to the lane that blew everyone away. or jumpshots over everybody on the opposing team. plus, he tried to get his teammates involved (though they did not deliver), so i don't count it as a "gimme the damn ball" moment hehe

Anonymous Anonymous said...
LeBron is as overrated as that guy from Fantasy Island is short... Er, whatever. But you know, even the Shawn Bradleys and Greg Ostertags of the world have good games. One good game doesn't garner one stardom.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Bet you're rooting for Lebron. After all, the Spurs beat your beloved Suns, so the enemy of my enemy is my friend, and all that jazz.

Sour grapes.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
"But you know, even the Shawn Bradleys and Greg Ostertags of the world have good games. One good game doesn't garner one stardom."

Are you really comparing Lebron's Game 5 to the best games of Greg Ostertag and Shawn Bradley? Seriously??

Blogger Basketbawful said...
"Bet you're rooting for Lebron. After all, the Spurs beat your beloved Suns, so the enemy of my enemy is my friend, and all that jazz."

I'm not rooting for Lebron (or more accurately, the Cavs) because the Spurs beat the Suns (or the Jazz, a team I'm just as attached to as the Suns). I'm not even sure that I'm rooting for them at all. But Lebron, and the ascent of the Cavaliers, is the most compelling plot of the Finals.

Blogger T. Leach said...
Those were my sentiments, too, with all the Lebron-a-thons. He's totally won me over, though. Why, he's not even a dick! He's a manchild among boys.

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