By Brad Thompson–
Now that the regular season is over, it’s time to find out what LeBron James and the Miami Heat are really made of. There’s not a player in the league that has more at stake in the 2011 playoffs than James. If LeBron wants to be considered one of the greatest to ever play, he needs to start collecting jewelry and he needs to start now.
After Miami’s Big Three joined forces in the off-season, multiple championships were assumed or at least predicted. No longer does James have the “lack of talent surrounding him” crutch to lean on. He got a pass in Cleveland because the city can’t win anything, but things are different now.
Gone are the excuses of LeBron having to carry the Cavaliers and single-handedly shoulder the burden of Cleveland’s championship drought. It’s now time for him to shine…or falter. It’s time for him to ball and start solidifying his legacy in basketball history. It’s time for him to walk the walk of his off-season talk of winning, “not three, not four, not five…” titles.
James has perennial All-Star Chris Bosh in the low post and a superstar by his side in Dwyane Wade, who can take over a playoff series like he did against the Mavericks in the 2006 Finals. The Heat are lacking a strong bench, but Mike Bibby has been a key late-season addition and Miami’s solid defense is underrated. The Celtics are limping into the playoffs and Miami has home-court for its potential second round matchup with Boston. This all means that the opportunity is there for Miami. It’s LeBron’s for the taking.
James’ statistics are off the charts; he’s been consistently putting up over 25 points, seven assists and seven rebounds a game for the past four seasons. Even though Derrick Rose will probably win the MVP this year, it’s hard to argue that LeBron isn’t the best overall player in the association. No one can match his numbers, except maybe Dwight Howard.
All that’s left for the two-time league MVP, scoring champion and All-Star MVP to do is win rings. And right now he’s way behind the company he’d like to keep. Jordan won six championships, Kobe’s got five and is still pushing, Magic has five and Bird won three. Sure there are Hall of Famers that didn’t win titles, but that’s not a list James wants to be on.
Anything short of a championship for Miami this year would not only be another playoff disappointment for James, but it would show that even with All-Stars around him he can’t win it all. The latter would be a huge knock on his legacy and could only be overcome with multiple titles.
LeBron got what he wished for in the off-season. He’s got talent surrounding him and a great opportunity in front of him. Now it’s time for him to deliver.
Do you agree with Brad? Post your comments below.
Brad M. Thompson, a former college football player and coach, made his return to the Midwest in 2009 after fighting wildfires out West. He earned his master’s degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and covers the Big Ten Conference and Chicago sports. Follow him on Twitter at @Brad_M_Thompson. Find more of Brad’s blogs here.