King James’ Coronation
The NBA, basketball’s biggest and best league in the world has held competition for more than 60 years. And in each of those 60 years the title has been won by teams and players that have had to work tremendously hard for it. Nobody has had it given to them. When LeBron James notoriously announced in the summer of 2010, on national television, that he was going to ‘take his talents’ to Miami to combine with two other superstars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, the basketball world raged. Cleveland, city that hosts the Cavaliers, LeBron’s former team, had riots with people burning James’ jerseys and effigies for this act of treachery. They were entitled to, as they felt their superstar, their idol, walked out on them. To the rest of the world, more than what he did, it was how he did it, that angered them. James proceeded to tell the world that they would win ‘not one, not two, not three…. but multiple titles’ almost as if it was his God given right to earn those rings that often eluded him and those rings that often made him look like nothing in comparisons to the greats of the game such as Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant et al. Superstars had united before as well, but none in, or ahead of their respective primes. America loves its stories of sports heroes carrying a team, and every one thought James was taking a short cut to success. Fast forward one year, and Dirk Nowitzki’s Dallas Mavericks had given James’ Miami Heat a humbling. After one season, LeBron’s shortcut had brought him more misery than any amount of positivity he had hoped for. LeBron realised, like most other legends who had won the NBA title, he’d have to earn it.
LeBron has been talked about and in the news ever since he was a kid. While at St.Vincent St. Mary school in Akron, Ohio, his high school team broke all records and made waves all over the country as they won multiple championships and beat teams from popular ‘basketball schools’ from all over the United States. In his senior year, he would go on to become the first high school athlete to get his own cover story on Sports Illustrated. Labelled ‘The Chosen One’ LeBron had everything going for him and the story took great shape when he was drafted as the number one pick in the 2003 NBA Draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers, based in his very own home state. Ever since his school days LeBron has had the pressure of having to deliver. In most cases he would let his game do the talking, and everything seemed to be going according to plan when the Cavaliers reached the NBA Finals in 2007. It is during that series that negativity started hounding James. As much as he could carry the Cavs, basketball is a team game, and the much more experienced San Antonio Spurs got the better of him and proceeded to win the title. It was then that LeBron started to create a reputation for himself as a bit of a choker. Harsh as it may have been at that time, for someone who was relatively still a youngster to the league, LeBron did not do much to make his case better in the following seasons where he put up incredible numbers during the season, only to not be able to translate that to playoff success. His mental strength was in question, his attitude even more. Incidents like his refusal to shake the hands of the winning team following his playoffs exit in 2009, didn’t help his public image at all. In what seemed like a apt end to his Cavaliers career, James’ team was eliminated at the hands of the Celtics in the East again following a poor showing by him in an important game.
During the summer of 2010, as mentioned earlier, LeBron walked out on the Cavaliers. There was a sense of arrogance with the desire to win, there was a sense of self indulgence in the quest for greatness. It seemed as though, LeBron and his super-friends wanted to rewrite the way basketball history was going to be written, on their own terms. Basketball wise, Heat GM wanted James to play the role of the leader, facilitator, play maker rather than just be the scorer. It all sounded perfect, but rarely ever is sports like that. The world was rooting against James and the Heat and got their wish when Nowitzki’s inspired Dallas Mavericks pummeled through the Heat’s porous non team game. Nowitzki got his first title ring after more than a decade of struggle. It was at this moment that James had an epiphany, as he would later admit. James was so gutted by the performance that he decided to take a step back and change the way he thinks as a person, along with the way with which he played the game.
A couple of weeks ago, he broke out in a press conference when he was asked about what changed this year. James said that he had to take a step back, because last year was about proving people wrong, making a point to the media. He said that last year he played with hate and anger, and realised that what made him who he was, was that he played the game with love and passion. James said that he started this season knowing that he just had to be himself in order to be successful. The effect was seen. Over the year, he has matured both with regard to skills on the floor as well as being a better person. He well and truly put the Miami Heat on his shoulders and became the true leader. One that everyone looks up to and not just loves. One that makes his team mates better, and one who is so focused that just doing the simple things so well was all it needed to get that elusive championship. Miami recently defeated the NBA’s darling team Oklahoma City Thunder 4-1 to give LeBron the taste of success in his 9th season. With a little more than 15 minutes left in Game five, we saw the pinnacle of LeBron’s maturity when he went over to stop his teammate Mario Chalmers from prematurely celebrating, and uttered the words ‘Stop it, not yet’. LeBron’s tremendous turn around has been the biggest reason for the Miami Heat’s success and years into the future NBA fans will look back at this season and point it out as the one where LeBron grew up, the one where LeBron took what was his instead of waiting for it to happen to him, the one where LeBron took a huge stride towards being the hall of fame legend that every kid who picks up a ball aims to be. Nike released a billboard ad of James, that said – Destiny is earned, not given. Nothing else could have summed it up better. King James’ long overdue coronation has finally happened, and happened only because he has rightfully earned it.