Watching LeBron early on I had no doubt in my mind he was going to be the greatest NBA player of all time. His basketball skills with his body and athletic ability are a combination never seen before.
We saw flashes of brilliance, taking down the Washington Wizards in bitter playoff battles, 25 straight points against the Detroit Pistons, and the incredible game winning shot in the Eastern Conference Finals versus the Orlando Magic.
Fair or unfair we expected more from LeBron. He got to the NBA Finals once and he was swept by the San Antonio Spurs.
Looking back this was the worst possible occurrence for LeBron’s career. He single-handedly dragged a team to the NBA Finals so we all assumed he would be able to do it over and over and over again.
The landscape of the Eastern Conference changed the year after he advanced to the NBA Finals. The Boston Celtics were able to put three Hall of Famers together in Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, plus Rajon Rondo developed into one of the top point guards in the league.
The road to where LeBron James needed to reach to live up to expectations became more difficult. After two losses to the Celtics and an Eastern Conference Finals defeat at the hands of the Magic, LeBron was “underachieving”.
At this point we hit the part where it becomes real complicated.
Instead of going rogue, LeBron decided to join forces with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to form a new Big 3.
Personally, I was devastated by the decision for numerous reasons. From being a salty Knicks fan to being disgusted the least deserving fans in the NBA were getting the opportunity to watch the two of the top five players in the league on a nightly basis.
The funny part is that LeBron did something that 99% of the time would have been universally praised. The guy took less money to try and win a championship, but the media (including myself) was too worried about how he left and whether he was taking the easy way out to fully comprehend what LeBron did.
Winning this year’s NBA Championship will fully validate LeBron’s decision. When it comes down to your legacy as an NBA player it is all about winning championships.
There is a reason Karl Malone and Gary Payton tried to ride Shaq and Kobe’s coattails to a title. As great as players like Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone, John Stockton and Charles Barkley were, there will always be a huge blank spot on the resume. LeBron wanted to make sure his legacy did not have the same blemish.
Taking down the Celtics was the first step in LeBron building a legacy that will make him unique in NBA lore.
This series very well could be the start of LeBron going from flashes of winning greatness to consistent winning greatness, highlighted by his crunch time play in Games 4 and 5. LeBron hit three historical three-point baskets that catapulted he, Wade (if you want to say Wade was the best player for the entire series no argument here), and Bosh past the team they joined together to defeat.
For all the steps forward LeBron took in this series he now has to finish the job. If LeBron loses in the Eastern Conference or NBA Finals every step forward he took against Boston gets canceled out and we are back to asking the same questions we had about him before.