The NBA Corner: The King James Bible...and a Farewell
Last night we witnessed a coronation.
“It’s about damn time.”
No, that’s not a quote from Skip Bayless. It’s actually LeBron James, explaining his feelings upon finally being able to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
“This is the happiest day of my life.”
There are those that will continue to belittle James. They’ll still throw shots at him, complaining that he needs to win 7 more to match that tongue-in-cheek comment he made during the Heat pep rally before last season. They’ll joke about his hairline. They’ll make Delonte West jokes. They’ll say he’s not humble. But, much like Peyton Manning and John Elway before him, the biggest knock against him and his first-ballot Hall of Fame career – He doesn’t have any rings! – has now vanished.
“It took me to go all the way to the top and then hit rock bottom to realize what I needed to do as a professional athlete and a person.”
LeBron James finally ascended to the throne, nine seasons after he had been made a prince. Like all children of royalty, he was bratty, selfish, and completely self-unaware. Unlike so many of them, he grew up. Failure and disappointment will do that a person. (If you don’t think this loss will make Kevin Durant a better all-around basketball player, maybe it’s time to deactivate your Twitter account.) He’s never been accused or in any way associated with a crime or engaged in shady gambling activity, but people hated him because he was presumptuous and smug and didn’t hide it the way other athletes do. He tried being the villain last season and it didn’t suit him. This year, he just played ball. That suited him perfectly, resulting in a third MVP award, a Finals MVP award, and a championship.
“It was the hardest thing I've ever done as a basketball player. You just put a lot of hard work into it and you hope that one day it will pay off for you.”
It’s never as easy as they think it’s going to be. After nine seasons, James finally figured out how to put all of his talents together. It’s a scary thought for everyone else, because the way he played last night, and throughout the postseason, particularly since Game 4 of the Indiana series, no one could have defeated him and the Miami Heat. He averaged 28.6 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 7.2 assists throughout the NBA Finals, capped with a wunderkind all-around performance of 26 points, 13 assists, and 11 rebounds.
“It was a journey for myself. I don't want to compare it to any other player.”
He may not want to compare it to anyone else, but the rest of us have nothing better to do. Michael Jordan won his first title in his seventh NBA season, at the age of 27. LeBron James won his first title in his ninth NBA season, at the age of 27. Michael Jordan won his first NBA Finals in five games after losing the first game of the series. Oklahoma City won Game 1 of the 2012 Finals. Michael Jordan was called selfish and immature and pundits guaranteed that he would never win a championship. Sounds familiar. Jordan was punished, humiliated, and beaten down by a Detroit Pistons team that was engineered to stop him. Until his Bulls swept them in 1991 and Isiah Thomas led them off the court in protest because, you know, Isiah’s a baby. James fell time and again to the Boston Celtics before finally beating them…and then losing to the Dallas Mavericks.
Failure is what makes great players greater. Larry Bird and Magic Johnson dealt each other crushing defeats. Jordan was bullied by Detroit. Kobe Bryant shot 4 airballs in a playoff game loss to Utah. Dirk Nowitzki lost as a 1-seed in the first round. LeBron was swept in the Finals. Four years later, with a 2-1 series lead, he wilted under the pressure and expectations. It made him the player and the person that was able to dominate the Oklahoma City Thunder and finally become the king. In short, “Failure was the greatest thing to happen to his career because it changed the prism with which the world viewed James, and most of all, the way LeBron James viewed himself.”
We are all witnesses.
On another note, the NBA season isn’t the only thing coming to a close this week as this will be my final regular column for this wonderful website. It’s fitting that LeBron finally reached the pinnacle of the Association this year. His two-year journey from adored Cleveland underdog to reviled South Beach prima donna coincided with my time here at IHJJR. I started writing this column at the start of last season, when pundits predicted that the Heat would win 75 games and scorned owners guaranteed that the worst team in the league would win a championship before Miami did. Of course, the past two seasons were good, the past two postsesons were fantastic, and the lockout was awful. All in all, it was a fun time to have this space and I thank you for reading, retweeting, and debating both NBA and non-sports issues with me. They say all good things must come to an end and this is a great thing that will be coming to an end for me.
In addition to overnight feedings and changing diapers that look like they were worn by a homeless wino, my professional life is about to take another major step forward and, as such, will require more of my attention than ever, so I will no longer have the same time or energy to devote to my writing. I always took a great deal of pride in the research and preparation of my NBA columns and rather than turn them into 300-word baseless tirades about the same tired subjects, I would prefer to just walk away. It’s time to move on. I will continue to be an avid reader and commenter on this great site and I may even return for a guest spot or two, but I will no longer be a regular contributor. There are some fantastic things happening both with the site itself and the great people that regularly contribute to it and I’m eager to watch as both progress into the future. Everyone I have met and talked to through my association with this website are all great people that I would be proud to call my friends.
It has been a blessing to be able to spout my views on sports and pop culture and hopefully provide a unique perspective that you may not have been able to get everywhere else. The non-sports posts were some of my favorite and they also allowed me to cleanse my soul and engage in a cathartic exercise that I believe has allowed me to let go of a lot of things that were weighing me down. Writing about the death of a best friend, seeing a therapist, and having your prom date sleep with someone else forced me to confront the truth and make peace with who I am and what I’ve done in life. My goal throughout was to keep you entertained and show you myself and if I accomplished those two things, then I feel successful. I know that the NBA is a distant third, or possibly fourth, option for most of the Baltimorians that read this website on a daily basis, so I thank you for patronizing me. When I began writing in this space, I had so much to say, both about basketball and the world at large. I now feel like I’ve said my piece. The worst posts are the ones that are forced by the writer and come out of a sense of obligation rather than desire. As I type this, I feel myself slowly approaching that point and I am determined to stop before I reach it.
In the end, all thanks must go to Phil. He reached out and offered me an opportunity that I had never considered before and he managed to get me to write again after I had taken a few years off. Without him, I never would have had the idea or the confidence to write any of those posts, let alone publish a book. (He’s still isn’t getting any royalties, though.) I couldn’t have asked for a better person to work for or with. He trusted my judgment and allowed me plenty of free rein to write about anything that came to mind, even if it was stupid. (In hindsight, he probably should have invoked his executive power and scrapped my Flying Car post.) He’s a wonderful EIC and an even better person and I’m glad that our working relationship turned into a real friendship. For him, the sky is the limit. His work with Bleacher Report is only the beginning. He is on the verge of many big things and he deserves every good thing that comes his way. He’ll succeed in life because he treats people well and genuinely cares about those around him. I wish him nothing by wealth and greatness in the future.
So long, IHJJR world! It has been an absolute pleasure and even though I’m leaving you, I’m hoping we can still be friends.
Pierzy is the author of the new book, The Hip-Hop 10: The Best of the Best that Shaped the Music and the Culture, which can be ordered on Amazon here. He also (used to) write a weekly NBA column during the season, as well as columns revolving around other sports, hip-hop, movies, TV shows, food, beer, marriage, (new) fatherhood, and a variety of other topics. You can follow him on Twitter here.