Sweet Vindication for LeBron James: Miami Heat Win 2011-2012 NBA Title

June 22, 2012

Going into Game 5 of the NBA Finals, LeBron James knew exactly what was at stake: An end.

An end to the criticism. An end to the torrid, unrelenting assertion that he was incapable of winning the big one, that he was inept as a team leader, that he was unworthy of consideration as an all-time great.

LeBron always downplayed those accusations, claiming that what the media says has no effect, and that he might have been motivated by critics in the past, but not any longer.

He's said that this year he hasn't played out of anger or spite, but out of love for the game. Regardless, the lack of an NBA title was clearly a monkey on his back, and the criticism would only get worse the longer that monkey stayed put.

With that in mind, he made one thing clear Thursday night: The speculation, the criticism, and the 2012 season -- it was all coming to an end.

LeBron played marvelously. From beginning to end, he picked apart the OKC defense, persistently attacking the basket with his indomitable strength, either finishing at the rim or getting his teammates wide-open shots.

Fittingly, he registered a triple-double with 26 points, 13 assists, and 11 rebounds in a 121-106 blowout over Oklahoma City, finally capturing that ever-so-elusive first NBA title and an NBA Finals MVP to go along with it.

While LeBron undeniable couldn't have delivered a better all-around performance, it was a convincing close-out victory for Miami as a whole, the kind that legitimizes the winning team as truly the best in the league.

For a team that was criticized as being merely a 3-man franchise with a bunch of scrubs filling in the rest of the roster, Head Coach Erik Spoelstra couldn't have asked for a better collective performance in a more important game.

Six Heat players finished in double figures, as Miami seemingly couldn't miss from three-point land, tying the NBA record with 14 three-pointers as a team, and shooting a sizzling 53% from behind the arc.

Timely performances from role players are often the mark of NBA champions, and Miami received big plays from a variety of unlikely heroes throughout the series.

Initially, it was Shane Battier, who, after having the worst shooting season of his career, came out of nowhere to average 17 points a game in the first two games in Oklahoma City, knocking down a flurry of threes.

In Game 4, it was Mario Chalmers, who emerged as the deciding factor in the game, scoring 25 with some clutch points down the stretch.

In Game 5, it was perhaps the most improbable of Heat heroes: Mike Miller.

Miller has dealt with back problems all season and has overwhelmingly looked like a player on his way out of the league. Through the first four games of the Finals, that didn't change, as he made a grand total of zero three-pointers.

On Thursday night, he made seven. Thanks to LeBron's ability to constantly create plays, Miller got the benefit of wide-open looks, and got hot. He also stayed hot, finishing seven for eight from downtown for 23 points.

Chris Bosh had a huge game as well scoring 24 points, while Dwayne Wade had 20.

But amidst a great team effort, LeBron was clearly the biggest winner of all on Thursday night.

Despite the unrivaled glory that winning an NBA championship presents for any player, it also provided an incredibly satisfying sigh of relief for LeBron.

Few athletes, let alone people in any walk of life, will ever have to deal with the kind of public vilification and venomous disdain that LeBron has had to endure over the past couple years.

We all have people who don't particularly like us as individuals. Maybe not many, but probably a few. LeBron has had millions. Millions and millions of people across the country who would like nothing more than to see him fail.

That was because of one of the most controversial and notorious off-the-court events in NBA history -- "The Decision."

Regarded by many as a tasteless and cynical act, LeBron staged a nationally televised event in which he revealed that he'd be leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers and "taking my talents to South Beach," a line that would infamously enter the lexicon of American pop culture.

In leaving his hometown club and joining forces with two other superstars, the move was viewed by many as taking the easy route and a disgrace to the competitive nature that superstars are expected to uphold. The Heat and their big three were quickly established as the evil empire of the NBA.

And while the hatred for LeBron may not go away any time soon, there's not much he can do about that. Winning is all he can do, and it gives him all that any player would ever want: Respect.

He joined Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh not because he hated Cleveland, but because after seven years Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert didn't give him much to work with. Miami gave him the best chance at winning, and after two years, he's won. You don't have to like the guy, but now you certainly have to respect him.

After nine years of struggle, 3 MVP's, 2 NBA Finals failures, and alienation from an entire city and much of the basketball world, LeBron finally found vindication on Thursday night.

After the game, his feelings reflected the thoughts of every critic and fan who has watched his career unfold over the last nine years:

"It's about damn time,” said LeBron. “It's about damn time."

By Max Rucker
Contributing Writer for The Daily Sports Herald

No comments:

Post a Comment

We encourage all intelligent, passionate comments. Please refrain from any ignorant, racist, or offensive rants.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...