What we'd like to tell LeBron after the fourth Finals defeat of his career.
DEAR LEBRON JAMES,
For the record, I’m not your biggest fan. But I am a basketball fan. I recognize greatness when I see it. What you did in the six games of the 2015 NBA Finals is my idea of what basketball greatness is all about. Shit, it was borderline inhuman.
I’m not even going to spend too much time on the stats. We all know the numbers by now. (But for those who don't, here it is: 35.8 points per game, 13.3 rebounds per game, and 8.8 assists per game.) You became the first player in NBA history to lead the Finals in all three categories. But none of those numbers painted a clearer picture of what you had to go through in the Finals than this one: 45.8.
That’s 45.8 minutes played per game.
Those minutes are unfathomable, even for a physical specimen like you. Add that to all the miles you put on those legs by playing in the last FOUR NBA Finals not counting this one, and that probably explains why you get cramps all the damn time. Oh, I haven’t even mentioned the pressure of having to return to Cleveland after that ignominious exit five years ago and trying to end a 51-year championship drought for a long-tortured fan base.
It’s a task no single person should carry on his own, even for someone as finely-tuned as you are.
Yet you still did, soldiering on like you’ve always done in your career. Everybody’s going to remember this Finals against the Golden State Warriors as the crowning achievement of the best team in basketball. Nobody will remember that despite all the obstacles you faced, you led the Cavs to within two wins of the championship…all by yourself.
I watched all six games of the Finals, front to back and back to front. There’s no question that Golden State deserved this title. But how you made them earn it speaks to the drive and passion you put into giving your team the best possible chance to succeed. Like I said, forget the numbers. What I saw—what everyone saw—was one man going against a well-oiled machine, trading shots for six games despite having no reinforcements to call on.
Fans oftentimes wax hyperbole when it comes to you, but dammit, this Finals really was a case of one man playing an entire team. And it wasn’t just one-on-five; it was one-on-12.
Those are odds even the greatest of the great can’t win.
For the first time in your career, I found myself struggling to come up with words to describe the effort you put in all six games. Watching the Cavs' offensive sets reminded me of your first run with the team: “Post up LeBron. See what happens.” And for the most part, you made the Warriors pay for whatever they tried doing against you. Again, you just didn’t have any help—help you needed and deserved.
Sure, Matthew Dellavedova chipped in. Timofey Mozgov had a big game. Tristan Thompson rebounded his ass off. But they couldn’t give you the support you needed throughout the series. Everybody else pretty much shit their pants. And the two guys who were supposed to be your lieutenants—Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love—were in street clothes or in Irving’s case, in the hospital.
A lot of your haters are reveling in the fact that you’re now 2-4 in the Finals. I’ve heard some of them already. I've also seen the memes.
“He’ll never be Jordan!”
“He choked again!”
“He can’t win without Wade and Bosh!”
“His hairline will go all the way to the back of his head before he wins another title!”
I know you’ve come to accept these detractors as part of the burden you carry for being who you are.
I say raise your head, King James. You have nothing to be ashamed of.
I’ll remember this NBA Finals as the time you—more than those two titles with the Heat, those four MVPs, and those two Olympic gold medals—proved your worth as the best basketball player of this generation.
A FORMER NON-FAN
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