R-E-S-P-E-C-T

LBJ Dunk

The Cleveland Cavaliers are 48 minutes of vintage LeBron James away from pulling off one of the greatest comebacks in sports history.

Down 3-1 against the defending champions – a historically great team – these Finals were in the refrigerator. The door was closed, the lights were out, the eggs were cooling, the butter was getting hard and the Jell-O was jigglin’. Chick Hearn would’ve wrapped this baby up with a bow.

Actually, many did. But King James wouldn’t have it.

I mean, you saw his face in those couple of minutes before Game 5.

You saw it and you knew what was coming. We all did. We knew because we’d seen it before.

It’s the scariest sight in sports; LeBron’s ain’t gonna lose game face.

Make no mistake, James’ performances in Games 5 and 6 of these Finals were absolutely incredible. Back-to-back 40-point outings. Epic play with his team’s season and his city’s championship dreams on the line.

The remarkable scoring numbers place him in elite company. Only the Logo, Rick Barry, MJ and The Big Aristotle have previously put up consecutive 40-point games during the Finals.

And get this: after six Finals games, LeBron leads both teams in, well, everything. He’s scored more points, grabbed more boards (tied), dropped more dimes, picked more pockets and blocked more shots than any other player from either team.

But it’s not just the numbers. It never is.

It’s James’ fight that impresses the most. His back-against-the-wall resolve. When the biggest dog in the fight possesses the greatest amount of fight, he eats.

Let there be no doubt about it: LeBron’s competitive spirit rivals that of the very best of the best. All-time.

I’m sorry, Slick Ric, you’re wrong. James is one of the greats. He does belong alongside Michael, Magic, Kobe and Bird.

To say that winning doesn’t matter to a player who has, time and time again, proven his mettle in must-win situations, is lunacy.

The fact that we keep needing to have this conversation at all is its own kind of madness. It’s a sad reality of the internet age, I guess, that hot takes and controversial opinions get the clicks.

Sadly, even the highly respected Adrian Wojnarowski, has used the break between Games 6 and 7 to fire some shots at LeBron.

Writing on The Vertical, Woj suggested that LeBron “is pushing for lifetime immunity for his legacy in these NBA Finals” and that a Game 7 victory will mean that “James will get to run off with his buddies again somewhere warm. Miami. Los Angeles. Wherever.”

Really? James isn’t pushing for immunity, he’s trying to win a championship.

And surely now, with Cleveland this close to their magical moment in the sun, is not the time to be running stories about LeBron possibly moving elsewhere at some stage in the future.

Enjoy the moment. Marvel at the athletic and competitive brilliance. If they’re not what you’re enjoying about this week, what is it that you love about this game?

I mean, the guy was The Chosen One!

The most hyped high school baller of all time. The prospect who was expected to become the sport’s next big thing (after MJ and Kobe) and has lived up to every tiny bit of that pressure.

The load of expectation LeBron has carried over the past 13 years is incredible and he has almost always handled it with class. Now he’s on the verge of delivering his city to the Promised Land.

Sure, he left. We know that. So did Simba! The important thing is that he came back.

Ok, so a few years singing Hakuna Matata with Wade and Bosh didn’t win any friends. I get that. But those days are in the past. James grew and he returned. And now he’s giving his heart and soul to his home city’s drive to that elusive NBA title. It’s a beautiful story.

A Cavaliers victory in Game 7, if it happens, should be widely celebrated. After all, defeating this historic Warriors team would be no mean feat. Doing it while making some comeback history of your own? Priceless.

The bottom line, really, is this…

Dislike LeBron James if you must. Cheer against him if you will. But at the very least, appreciate his greatness and show some goddamn respect.

 

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