By Frank McLean
Back in 2010 LeBron James was considered “persona non grata” in Cleveland and all of Northeast Ohio. He had made the dumbest decision in his life by holding his own one hour television special on ESPN called “THE DECISION” where he told the world that as a free agent he was taking his talents to South Beach and the Miami Heat.
Two years ago he came home with the mission to bring a professional sporting championship to Cleveland. A city which last had a championship winner in the original Cleveland Browns who won an NFL championship in 1964, which was so long ago this Championship was three years before the merger with the AFL created the Super Bowl.
In sporting terms, this was the “stone age”.
Down three games to one in this year’s NBA Finals James literally willed his team to the title.
He scored 41 points in Games Five and Six, and in Sunday night’s clincher he pulled off a triple double of 27 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists.
In no uncertain terms he pulled a Michael Jordan, he refused to lose. As a result he also won the Finals MVP for a third time.
He fulfilled his promise to the people of Cleveland that he made in a letter published two years ago in Sports Illustrated. He came home to win a championship. He had said it would be “hard to deliver and would be a long process.”
Oh yes, it was a long two years.
James has been accused of being the team’s real General Manager. When the Cavaliers fired their head coach of a year and a half David Blatt midway through the season after they had already acquired 31 wins, it looked like James had his hands all over the change at the time. However, Blatt’s replacement Tyrone Lue proved that he was running the show in an incident when James tried to take over the huddle during a timeout in a game and Lue supposedly said “shut the bleep up.”
So I think the notion he was running the show was a little out of line.
The thing that amazes me about James is that when things go wrong for the teams he has played for, Cavaliers or Heat, he gets the blame for it even though he is putting up the numbers.
During this year’s Finals James was taking flack for being just 2-4 in previous NBA Finals and after the Cavaliers had lost the first two games of the series, the fact he was headed towards a 2-5 mark was being used to blame him for previous teams’ failures.
One person in the NBA who can’t understand this is current Warriors executive Jerry West. West in his playing days with the Los Angeles Lakers was 1-8 in the Finals, always losing to the Boston Celtics.
“With him, the negativity that surrounds him, honestly, to me, I think is so unjust and so unfair,” West said in interview during the Finals to ESPN. “Take him off of the team and see how these teams do. That’s all you have to do. Take him off. And it frustrates the heck out of me when I see some of these players who play this game at an enormously high level get criticized because their teams quote, ‘Can’t win the big one.’ The damn guy gets his teams there every year. He wins. For people to criticize him, I think that’s why he really resonates.”
And that in a nutshell is why the Cavaliers are the champions today.
The four years James was in Miami, the Cavaliers were a pitifully bad Lottery team, with him they are champions.
James fulfilled his promise to make the city of Cleveland a winner again. He also proved that maybe he is really the MVP of the league and the best player in the game.
Veteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.