(Long Island, N.Y.) One major criticism of LeBron James last summer was that he took the easy way out. Instead of staying as the leader in Cleveland or filling that role in New York, he chose to become one of three big name players in Miami and ride Dwayne Wade’s sidecar with Chris Bosh en route to an NBA championship.
But a funny thing happened on the way to becoming the next dynasty. James, instead of being ‘the guy’ on the floor and wanting the basketball in big moments, deferred to his teammates more times than not and the Heat fell to the Dallas Mavericks in six games.
Winning your conference and representing it in the NBA Finals is certainly an accomplishment in itself, but the Heat did not bring James and Bosh in to lose a series like this. The Mavs are a very talented team and deserving of a title, but the Heat had the star power and with the majority of the series being decided in the waning minutes, James could have and should have made more of a difference.
While South Florida is certainly a bigger market than Ohio, it is still way down on the list in comparison to New York. When the Gotham sports talk radio programs were filled with irate callers accusing King James of not being brave enough to put Madison Square Garden on his back, they may have been on to something. James did have a productive regular season (27.6 points per game) after a slow start, but he needed to prove that he is even capable of being in the same conversation with someone such as Michael Jordan. And that all starts with championship rings.
James now has two Finals losses on his resume and zero wins. He did lead the way back in 2007, but he had no pressure on him in that series. The Cavaliers were still an up and coming team that year and James’ supporting cast was made up of pedestrian players and others that were on the downside of their careers, so beating San Antonio would have been viewed as a huge upset.
That wasn’t the case this time around. Miami was expected to take care of business like they did in 2006, but they couldn’t get the job done. James’ frustration was apparent in his post-game comments and all of the flak he received from last summer’s dog and pony show may have played a part in it.
“At the end of the day, all of the people that (were) rooting on me to fail, they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life that they had before they woke up today,” he said to reporters after the Game 7 loss. “They have the same personal problems they had today. I’m going to continue to live the way I want to live and continue to do the things that I want to do with me and my family and be happy that with it. They can get a few days or a few months or whatever the case may be about being happy about not only myself, but (also) the Miami Heat about not accomplishing their goal, but they have to get back to the real world at some point.”
Even though James backpedaled some a day later, it still shows that he lacks the maturity to take a public beating like Patrick Ewing endured throughout his tenure on Broadway. The Knicks have ‘recovered’ quite well after James didn’t accept their free agent offer and – while not in the Heat’s caliber yet – are clearly on the right track and have two quality superstars of their own in Carmelo Anthony and A’Mare Stoudemire.
By qualifying for the playoffs, the Knicks got a small taste of what will be a part of their immediate future, and they will know that LeBron made the correct “Decision” in the long run.