Now, that the Miami Heat have made it to the Eastern Conference finals, and LeBron James’ so called “apology” is a few day old, it seemed like a good time to examine some facts. Something the “world-wide leader” sometimes fails to do in their agenda to determine what is important in sports today.
First, let us remind everyone that this is James’ third trek to the conference finals, as the Cavaliers defeated the Pistons in 2007, and lost to Orlando in 2009. So, he didn’t need to join forces with other great players to get that far. He’s been there before, even though he didn’t act like it after the Heat eliminated the Celtics this week.
His “apology” was meant to tell Cleveland fans that he needed to do this so he could get past the big mean Boston Celtics, who by the way, did not resemble the team that defeated the wine and gold in 2008 and 2010. This Celtic team no longer had Kendrick Perkins, had their electric point guard, Rajon Rondo, playing at less than 50%, and a big three that was older.
It is very likely that had James stuck around with the Cavs, they could have gotten past these Celtics too. And that opinion is supported by ESPN’s own Chris Broussard, who is a very good hoops writer.
As for the needing another star to win a title, let’s examine that argument.
The experts always bring up Michael Jordan and point out that he had two hall of famers in his championship with the Bulls. However, people fail to remember that Jordan was there first.
Jordan’s first year with the Bulls was 1984-85. Pippen did not arrive until 1987-88, and in his first year, played a little less than 21 minutes per night and averaged 8 points per night. It wasn’t until Pippen’s third year that he became a good player, and Chicago won their first title the following season.
As for Dennis Rodman? While you can debate whether he belongs in the hall, he wasn’t on the team the first three titles won by the Jordan led Bulls.
The point is this. Jordan helped Pippen become a superstar. Who has LeBron James helped achieve that status in his career?
Looking at the hallmark players of the NBA’s modern age (for argument sake, post 1980), only Magic Johnson joined a team that already had a superstar in Kareem Adbul-Jabbar. And certainly, Johnson contributed to making James Worthy a Hall of Fame player.
Would Worthy have reached that status without playing alongside Magic? Perhaps, but being on his team definitely helped.
Look at Larry Bird. His first year in Boston was 1979-80, and his teammates were Tiny Archibald, Cedric Maxwell, Rick Robey and Dave Cowens. Where were Kevin McHale, Robert Parish, and Dennis Johnson?
Parish and McHale arrived the following year, with Parish coming over after four years in Golden State, where he topped out scoring 17 point and getting 12 rebounds a game on a team that went 24-58. The “Chief” improved his scored two points a night in his first year in Boston.
McHale was a rookie playing 20 minutes a night and scoring 10 points per game. Sound familiar? He didn’t top 15 points a game until his fourth season with the Celts.
Neither player was considered a perennial all-star when they arrived in Boston.
Another great who came to a team with an all-star player was Tim Duncan, as David Robinson was already with the Spurs when he was a rookie. But Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili weren’t considered excellent players when they arrived in the Alamo city.
The point is Jordan, Bird, Magic, and Duncan all made good players great ones. LeBron James never did that in Cleveland. So for all the posturing about how he needed to go someplace else to win so he could be surrounded by better talent. He should realize that he didn’t facilitate the process of getting his teammates to the next level.
The best players do that to their teammates.