LeBron can’t get it done in the finals.
That’s the first thing critics say about LeBron Raymone James. I’ve probably heard it said at least twice a week for the past year. It’s a fair statement, and one — as a fan of James almost his entire career — that I’ve been hoping I can someday rub in the faces of LeBron haters.
So I’m going to do something I swear I haven’t done once in my eight years as a fan of King James: predict him winning a championship. This is the season.
Maybe it’s foolish of me, but anyone who’s followed the arch of his career can sense that the clock is running out on the biggest LeBron hater of them all: ESPN’s Skip Bayless.
The Heat have now had more than a year to come together. Impatience has become a trademark of the American sports mind. If Mike Krzyzewski started his college coaching career today he would never have been around long enough to win four national championships to make up for his terrible first three seasons.
People seem to keep forgetting that “The Big 2.75” era is only in its second season (Chris Bosh is the .75, although last year I had him at .50).
To quote ESPN’s Bill Simmons in a podcast during last year's NBA playoffs, “If LeBron wins a championship this season, as a Celtics fan, it’s like well we might as well just call the decade a bust, because if they win it this year with a supporting cast that was thrown together around them in one offseason, they’re only going to get tougher to beat as they build a better team around James, Wade and Bosh.”
That is what the Heat have done this season. The additions of Eddy Curry and Shane Battier are the type of players who could be the difference between having the right supporting pieces to make a championship team. In addition, Mario Chalmers continues to develop. Everyone forgets it took the Celtics'Rajon Rondo a couple seasons to find his groove with Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce. Chalmers could end up being a case of that, as well.
But back to LeBron. The change in his game this season is not in the stats. It is in the way he plays basketball more efficiently and tactfully. He is playing an average of 36.9 minutes per game — the lowest of this career — but he is shooting a career best 54.5 percent this year, 3 percent higher than his previous best set last season.
James is getting to his spots and creating room for himself. He is posting up more. In his ninth year in the league, he has never looked faster and freakier.
But when it comes to the Jordans and LeBrons and Kobes of the world, people do not realize it takes a good part of their career learning how to harness their talent in a way that constantly and consistently wins professional basketball games.
Dominating the fourth quarter of an NBA finals is the greatest feat in basketball. It is something a player has to mature and learn how to do. And it has taken awhile but this will be the year LeBron does it. Jordan took six seasons to win his first, and he went to college for three years. He was 27 years old, the same age as LeBron.