Over the span of about six years, LeBron James has managed the near impossible.
In fact, Cleveland’s “Chosen One” delivered us a modern day Homeric epic.
James, perhaps best viewed as basketball’s own invincible Achilles, managed to rise into the ranks of the NBA’s most beloved players, spiral downward into the company of its most derided and finally, finish off our story with this summer’s ultimate individual redemption: capturing Cleveland’s first NBA title
Simply put, the King has ascended into the NBA stratosphere. James’ performance in the finals, which saw him lead both teams in every measurable statistical category, drag his team back from a 3–1 series deficit and finally lift Cleveland out its 52-year championship drought, was more than eye-popping. It was historic.
To be completely honest, this title probably means more to the city of Cleveland than I’m capable of representing. The idea that a working-class kid, raised by a single mother in Akron, Ohio can rise up from nothing, carry the burden of an entire city’s hopes and expectations on his back and finally capture a championship with his hometown team is a boyhood fantasy come to life. Whether you hate him or love him, the quality of inspiration that James delivers is unquestionable. I promise you, there are kids across Ohio and kids across America who want nothing more than to be just like LeBron.
In basketball we’re often bogged down with discussions of legacy, “NBA Mount Rushmores” or MVP awards. All of those individual plaudits are important and define the sport I love. However, you cannot put a price or a measure on a player’s ability to provide others with hope.
LeBron might not have more championships than Jordan and he hasn’t scored more points than Kareem. He’s never passed like John Stockton or shot like Reggie Miller. But nobody has ever made a more tortured fan base believe quite like he has.
Perhaps one of the most intriguing elements of James’ Herculean effort is the way it has transformed his public perception. Once thought a turncoat and a villain, James has finally become the hero we always hoped he would be. Gone are labels like “choker” or “wannabe,” and it’s somehow ultimately taken three championships, four MVPs and 13 NBA seasons for James to shed them.
For the first time in his NBA career, James looks satisfied. With the curse lifted and Believeland’s right to hope restored, all LeBron has left to do is chase one more ghost and vanquish one final personal demon: Michael Jordan. At this point in his career “The King” will have to take a shot at “His Airness” and either surpass him or go down swinging. James has already assured his place in history, so why not go after the best
There is, however, one man who will most assuredly not appreciate James’ brilliance, Stephen Curry. Prior to these Finals, Curry was a media darling, a rising brand, a two-time MVP, defending champion and looked poised to wrest the crown from James’ head and topple his throne. That all changed with one pivotal series.
Don’t get me wrong, Curry is still one of the three best players in the Association. He is still the greatest shooter of all time and he will undoubtedly have a shot at another title, but LeBron’s brilliance juxtaposed with Curry’s own floundering on the sport’s biggest stage has shifted the narrative
With the Warriors’ record-breaking 73-win season in shambles and the imminent Bay Area arrival of the NBA’s newest supreme villain, Kevin Durant, we are somehow looking at a league turned on its head. Curry and the Warriors, once fan favorites and the league’s most popular bandwagon have turned into the basketball equivalent of Darth Vader and the Galactic Empire. Somehow, someway, the Association’s Luke Skywalker is now LeBron James.
I don’t know about you, but I’m more excited for the start of the NBA season than I have been in years. For once, being a Wizards fan might not suck all the fun out of watching basketball for me, because we’ll all get to watch the next great chapter in basketball’s most intriguing epic.
The King is back on his throne, facing perhaps his toughest challenge yet in a revamped Golden State squad, and we’re poised to see one hell of a fight.
Marc Cugnon is a senior in Calhoun College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .