June 14, 2011
When LeBron James announced to the world last July that he would be “taking his talents to South Beach”, he did not do so quietly. He had a drawn out, highly publicized 1-hour ESPN special entitled “The Decision” in which he revealed the team he chose to sign with after a frenzied and fast-tracked free agency. The criticism of James intensified after his announcement, ranging from angry Cleveland fans who felt betrayed to sports commentators who felt his announcement was a shameful display of arrogance and self-promotion. Let’s not ignore that this is the man they themselves were so keen on accepting as “King”.
The press conference officially announcing LeBron as a Heat team member was another spectacle, full of fireworks, dancing and high-fives. It was then that Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh and LeBron James were dubbed the “trifecta” of the NBA. They promised a dynasty in the likes of which hadn’t (and still hasn’t) been seen since Michael Jordan and the Bulls. After an impressive season, the Heat moved smoothly through the playoffs, effectively eliminating teams and moving one spot closer to their second championship title.
When the Mavericks swept the Lakers in Round 2, it was obvious they were not a team to ignore. After easily beating the Thunder in five, the Mavs were set to face the Heat, and the championship series transformed from a match-up into a rematch. The Mavs and Heat faced each other in their franchise first finals appearances back in 2006, and the Mavs went home empty-handed despite an early 2-0 game lead. Going into the Finals this year, it was obvious that Dallas was ready to claim what was theirs.
The Mavericks played harder, faster and stronger. For a team that was marketed as the holy grail of basketball teams, the Heat never had any “wow” moments during the series. Yes, they won two games, but the scores weren’t that impressive, as they won Game 1 by eight points, and Game 3 by just two. While Dwayne Wade played through the pain (he played with an injured hip in Game 5), LeBron seemed to disappear or just give up by the fourth quarter. Dirk Nowitzki played with a fever, and all LeBron could do was make fun of him in the locker room. As a spectator, it clearly appeared as though the Mavericks just wanted it more. By the fourth quarter, Game 6 was hard to watch.
But the focus shouldn’t be on LeBron, how good or bad he played, how disappointing or disappointed he and the Heat are. It should be on the Dallas Mavericks and the outstanding performances of Jason Terry and Dirk Nowitzki. We should marvel at the vindication of the Mavs from 2006’s loss and celebrate Jason Kidd’s claiming a ring after 17 years and two failed attempts.
Despite losing — not to mention disappointing fans — a certain member of the Miami Heat doesn’t seem to have learned anything from his actions. At the Game 6 post-game press conference, LeBron had a message for his “haters”: “All the people that were rooting on me to fail, at the end of the day, they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life that they had before they woke up today. They have the same personal problems they had today. I’m going to continue to live the way I want to live and continue to do the things that I want to do with me and my family and be happy with that. They can get a few days or a few months or whatever the case may be on being happy about not only myself, but the Miami Heat not accomplishing their goal. But they have to get back to the real world at some point.”
Despite his arrogance, LeBron James did not rule on Sunday night. It was the Dallas Mavericks, collectively, and deservedly, who were kings of the court.