The Miami Heat's LeBron James, left, holding the Larry O'Brien NBA Championship Trophy and his Bill Russell NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award after Game 7 of the NBA basketball championship game against the San Antonio Spurs, Friday, June 21, 2013, in Miami. The Miami Heat defeated the San Antonio Spurs 95-88 to win their second straight NBA championship. Former NBA player Bill Russell looks on. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
Updated: June 21, 2013 3:31PM
More than the 37 points, the second NBA title, the repeat Finals MVP, it was what LeBron James said last night that seared his name, his greatness, his legacy into basketball lore.
When prodded by reporter Doris Burke with a tougher-than-usual postgame query—(paraphrasing) How do you constantly deal with the scrutiny, the pressure?—LeBron set aside the PR manual, swallowed the safe answer and with a rising crescendo of confidence exclaimed to her, his critics, and David Stern’s global audience:
“Listen, for me, I can’t worry about what everybody say about me. I’m LeBron James from Akron, Ohio. From the inner city. I’m not even supposed to be here. That’s enough. Every night I walk into the locker room, I see a number 6 [jersey] with ‘James’ on the back. I’m blessed. So what everybody’s saying about me off the court don’t matter. I ain’t got no worries.”
Think about that for a moment.
Roughly three years ago, his Cavaliers jerseys were reduced to ashes across the country, the biggest pile forming in Ohio. Now, on basketball’s biggest stage, LeBron rises above the decision that left him Public Enemy No. 1 in the sports world and reveals his maturation.
Oh, I’m sure he didn’t win everyone over. Like cockroaches in the night, the haters will linger. Some will take umbrage with his cocky trophy pose. Others will ridicule his grammar. And, many won’t let go of that night with Jim Gray, which rightfully and more appropriately should have been called, “The Derision.” Still, no one with any semblance of reason can say the kid from Akron didn’t grow up last night.
At age 28, he now has as many NBA Titles as the prolific Wilt Chamberlain and one more than league logo Jerry West. He’s also pretty much running neck-and-neck in the hardware race with MJ at that same age. Still, his detractors and most basketball old-timers refuse to put him in the G.O.A.T discussion with Michael, et al., or allow that he could ever get there.
A very smart logic teacher (is there any other kind) once taught me that no comparisons can be true—something about the false analogy. And that’s the thing about truly great athletes, they are incomparable. There will never be another Ali. Ruth. Pele. Gretzky. They have no peers. Each was so unique in their abilities, you can’t simplify them by labeling. To do so is cheap, if not pedestrian.
But let’s try: LeBron has Jordan’s explosiveness; Magic’s court awareness; and, Karl Malone’s bulkiness. But he’s still Lebron James. None of those players had everything LeBron has.
The only label you can put on him: LeBron James.
From Akron, Ohio.