Last night I sat on the edge of my couch as I watched the most riveting personal display of basketball dominance since Michael Jordan ripped the hearts out of Karl Malone, John Stockton and Utah Jazz fans across the world during the now infamous “Sick Game” during the 1997 NBA Finals.
After tossing and turning in my bed for a couple hours following the game – sleep just wouldn’t come as I was too excited about what I just witnessed – I then spent the majority of today mulling over what I just watched transpire. As much as I would like to praise LeBron for his epic performance I have to admit that I’m getting a horrible case of writer’s block and I’m struggling to express the awe and amazement I have at watching LeBron James score the last 25 points for Cleveland and 29 of their last 30 points. Sure, watching Jordan explode for 38 points while playing 44 minutes which fighting a nasty flu is impressive but I think watching James lean his head against Drew Gooden last night during double overtime is at least comparable. C’mon, are you trying to tell me that watching James last night didn’t give you shivers the same way watching Jordan during the ’97 NBA Finals did? I still get goose bumps sprouting on my arm when I think about the game last night.
All through high school I admired Jordan so watching him torch Utah was an event that I soaked up with glee. Lebron, on the other hand, has become a player that I’ve loved to jeer. He’s the kid who has been a celebrity since he was in high school, the player to whom the basketball universe seemed predestined to get handed over to, and I gotta’ admit that I’ve resented him for this.
Last night was just the kind of game I needed from LeBron to get over this hostility and start being to appreciate him for the talented player that he is.
Last night he matured past being just hype and a supreme physical specimen into one of the game’s premium talents. Much like what happened last season for Dwyane Wade when he captured basketball fans attention and love when he helped Miami win a championship, LeBron now started to move away from being a blue chip prospect to an actual player in this league. Some fans will read this last paragraph and scoff because of the stats that LeBron’s put up in his career but I’m a firm believer that reputations are built or tarnished in the playoffs. Stats are great and can help build a player’s rup but any player can post gaudy stats – just look at Shareer Abdur-Rahim’s career.
Back when LeBron was drafted there was talk about James and Carmelo Anthony becoming the next Bird and Magic – could Wade, James and Chris Bosh form a trio that battles it out for Eastern Conference supremacy for the next decade?
As a Raptors fan I sure hope so.
Despite being a “hater” for the majority of his career, last night helped start to turn to the tide for me and today I found myself hoping for another decade of inspired performances like we witnessed last night and deep runs into the playoffs by King James.