Analysis. History. Perspective.

Sports Then and Now

Heat is Really On LeBron and Miami

Posted on June 10, 2011 by Dean Hybl

It isn't yet clear how the 2011 Finals will impact LeBron's legacy.

From the day he announced that he was leaving Cleveland and taking his talents to South Beach, LeBron James has been under a media microscope that judges his legacy from game to game. Now after consecutive sub-par performances and with the Miami Heat trailing the Dallas Mavericks three games to two, it really is time for James to determine how people will look at him for years to come.

When James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade teamed up to form the “Big Three”, they talked about winning multiple championships and many across the league predicted a dynasty in the making.

However, many, including myself, also thought it would take the Heat a couple years to get comfortable playing together and finding the right supporting cast and that Boston and the Lakers would have one more championship battle before the dawning of the Heat Era.

That Miami dispatched of both the Celtics and the Chicago Bulls so easily in the Eastern Conference playoffs made us forget just how hard it is to get over the hump and win that first NBA Championship.

Dr. J and the Philadelphia 76ers endured numerous playoff heartbreaks, including three losses in the NBA Finals, before finally winning a title. Isiah Thomas and the Pistons took their lumps from the Celtics and Lakers before finally claiming a title. And Michael Jordan and the Bulls were thumped by the Pistons before finally becoming a championship team.

It seems that James and the Heat are condensing their entire journey into one tumultuous season.

They started slow (9-8 record) and then suddenly became nearly unbeatable as they won 12 straight and 21 of 22 games. Then they hit another wall in January with losses in five of six games. They then won 11 of 12, lost six of seven and finally closed the season by winning 15 of their final 18 games.

Critics pointed to their below-average record against the top teams in the league (6-11 against the Celtics, Magic, Bulls, Lakers and Spurs) as proof that they were not as good as their 58-24 overall record would indicate and that they were vulnerable in the playoffs.

After cake-walking through the Philadelphia 76ers in five games, the Cavaliers made the defending conference champion Celtics look old and slow in a five game series that was never in doubt.

They then gave critics something to talk about in a 21-point loss to Chicago in the first game of the conference finals.

It was at that point when James seemed to forever answer his critics with a dominant four-game performance to lift Miami into the NBA Finals.

But in the world of Twitter and 24-hour news cycles, the career legacy of LeBron James is re-written nightly and that will likely be the case until he finally claims his first NBA Championship.

If James and the Heat are able to overcome the Dallas Mavericks and win the next two games, it will not really matter whether James plays like the “best player on the planet” or simply as a key cog in a championship machine.

However, even if James has monster performances, but the Heat fail to win the championship, his fourth quarter failures in two very winnable games will always serve as part of the lasting series memory.

James said he went to Miami to win championships, so until he does, his legacy will be in flux. By Tuesday night we will know if we can finally comfortably put James in his rightful place among the all-time greats or if we will have to endure another season and another round of “Pick LeBron’s Legacy” before he finally hoists the Larry O’Brien trophy.

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