And not just any city. This is Cleveland we’re talking, the two-ton hunk of sports coal, a city long programmed to simply shrug its shoulders and live with the pain of going four-plus decades without a sports championship of any kind. Today, there’s suddenly a twist. There’s a chance, his best chance actually if not his last, to come full circle in a complicated relationship with the ‘Land and deliver what he and everyone in Ohio so desperately want to happen.
We’re better built to start The Finals than we were last year.
– Cleveland’s LeBron James
He always wear the cheap authentic jerseys, knows that one championship in Cleveland is worth 10 in Miami, the mistress city where he enjoyed a four-year fling before the magnetic pull of his community lured him back to Ohio. He also knows that reaching the NBA Finals Jerseys can’t be taken for granted, even though this is his sixth straight trip and therefore seems like his birthright.
Finally, he knows he’s bringing a healthy posse to the championship series, and not the band of mutts that couldn’t shoot straight last summer and dumped everything at LeBron’s exhausted feet, forcing him to give one of the all-time solo juggernaut performances. The opportunity is there to seize, and shouldn’t it guarantee that we’ll see LeBron at his very best against the Warriors in this series, which could produce a long-awaited victory parade?
“We’re better built to start The Finals than we were last year,” he said, and adding that winning “would mean everything to me.”
Should that be accomplished, the career arc of LeBron will make another sharp right turn, maybe permanently. It could be argued that no other iconic professional athlete in the social media era has taken such a wriggly journey and tasted both extremes of public love and hate. Quite a thrill ride, wouldn’t you say? The LeBron Experience is a puzzle that comes at you in stages.
Inside The NBA: Finals Preview
The Inside guys preview the upcoming Warriors-Cavs Finals re-match.
First: Teenaged sensation captured the cover of Sports Illustrated as a high school junior, gets his games on ESPN, has cheap NBA Jerseys peeps wiping saliva off their scouting reports, then gets drafted No. 1 overall by the sad-sack team up the street from Akron in a neat coincidence with possible historical ramifications.
Second: Takes NBA by storm almost immediately, builds a healthy 18-34 demographic fan base, projects as a future Hall of Famer, makes the Cavs a winner, wholesale nba jersyes, becomes beloved and respected by most if not all.
Third: Took Cavs to the NBA Finals despite being surrounded by junk, then suspiciously and infamously goes AWOL against the Celtics in the playoffs, behaves like a spoiled and entitled celebrity, kicks Cleveland to the curb after seven years in a much-panned TV selection show in favor of Miami.
Fourth: Portrayed as a public enemy for spurning poor Cleveland to join two fellow All-Stars in sexy South Beach (even though he never committed, you know, an actual crime), croaks in his first championship series with the Heat to the applause of many, then rights the ship by winning back-to-back titles and the grudging respect of the snobs who accused him of being an ingrate.
Fifth: Returned to Cleveland and treated like a hero by the same citizens who celebrated the burning of his jersey when he left, instantly reinvigorated the Cavs, nearly killed himself trying to beat the Warriors in the Finals last summer, now the sentimental favorite here in the rematch.
That’s a lot of different hats worn by LeBron over a 13-year career, cheap jerseys and there are vivid indications that through it all, LeBron has now found peace. He’s a father of three living in suburbia and more concerned with watching his sons’ games, a pitchman/athlete/businessman worth hundreds of millions, a philanthropist willingly and eagerly making a difference in his problematic hometown of Akron, and a historical nut who’s secure in his place in the NBA. His life as a man has evolved. Certain things don’t matter much anymore. We all walk through this door at one point.
But here’s the catch: Because he’s still playing at an MVP-level, he believes the job isn’t finished and his basketball to-do list is missing an important check-off, all because Cleveland is still searching for a title. He’ll downplay the significance of that if you ask, only because he doesn’t want to put his teammates under pressure and the emotions of a long-suffering city on high alert. And so LeBron is playing like he’s hungry instead of satisfied,wholesale jerseys, like he has something to prove even when he really doesn’t. He owes Cleveland and us nothing except his best, yet a good part of him believes he’s two months behind on the rent.
LeBron’s Consecutive Finals Appearances
Two-time champion Brent Barry waxes on how difficult it is to achieve what LeBron has done.
That’s why he paced his way through the regular season, and upped the intensity in the playoffs, and proudly carries himself as the best player in the game despite what Stephen Curry’s back-to-back MVP trophies might argue.
“LeBron knows who he is and what he wants to accomplish,” said Cavs coach Tyronn Lue. “And although he has done plenty in his life, there are a few things he wants to get done, both from a basketball perspective and off-the-court perspective.”
He’s still young enough at 31 to stay energized and ambitious, yet old enough at 31 to apply a sense of perspective and wisdom. That’s the perfect intersection, then, for what lies immediately ahead, and the right age not only to beat a formidable team like the Warriors, but to handle himself should the Cavs win and Cleveland treats him like a founding father.
We have another year under our belt and more chemistry. We’re excited about the opportunity.
– LeBron James
Last summer against the Warriors LeBron had to do it all, not by choice, and he almost pulled it off. Crazy, when you think about it: Andre Iguodala Jersey was voted series MVP for holding LeBron to 35.8 points, 13 rebounds and almost nine assists. Is it too late for a recount?
But now: Love seems reprogrammed and will be aggressive at times. Irving won’t save Cleveland defensively — Curry is grinning and chewing his mouthpiece furiously as you read this — but can cause hell with his shooting and creativity. Others appear able to chip in: Tristan Thompson, JR Smith, Channing Frye and Curry’s least favorite defender, the irritating Matthew Dellavedova. LeBron averaged just 36 minutes this season and perhaps purposely scaled back in crunch time, leaving others to be the hero. He didn’t need to be Sisyphus in the playoffs with the Cavs steamrolling the East, losing only twice.
“Having these guys (Irving and Love) right here at full strength, having our wholesale team jerseys at full strength and the way I feel personally, I appreciate the moment, to be a part of it and to do it again,” he said. “We have another year under our belt and more chemistry. We’re excited about the opportunity.”
GameTime: Love and Irving Impact on Finals
Sekou Smith and Rick Kamla talk about the importance of Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving when it comes to the success of the Cavaliers in the Finals.
Of course, the Warriors aren’t the Pistons, Hawks or Raptors. Those three teams can pool together their best players and still fail to bring what the Warriors are bringing. The Warriors are forcing their way into the conversation for top-five team all-time. That means LeBron might be required to be monstrous for two or three nights. More, if necessary.
“It’s an unbelievable team we’re going against,” LeBron conceded. “Hat’s off.”
He can do that. He can take over a game and shatter hopes on the other bench. Internally, that’s what concerns the Warriors, that LeBron has saved himself all season, to a degree, for this.
In a perfect situation, Irving and Love are made for the ultimate stage and LeBron facilitates his way through the series, but how likely is that against the Warriors? The Cavs will be required to pull the emergency rip-cord at some point and beg him to respond with a fury. He will need to lift the confidence and the spirit of his teammates, and by extension, the psyche of a city by the lake, still waiting for its ‘ship to sail.
That wouldn’t necessarily make him the best player in NBA history. Certainly the strongest, though.
Veteran NBA writer Shaun Powell has worked for newspapers and other publications for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here or follow him on Twitter.
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