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.
Labels: Cleveland Cavaliers, Lebron James, NBA playoffs