At this time of year, the anxiety is intensified in the city of Cleveland when concerning LeBron James. While the King is present in the city that is home to the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame, the quest to win a championship is the frequent theme in town. Yet, the always queasy feeling of him leaving town again is ingrained in the thoughts of the Cleveland faithful. As the series has the look of impossibility when the Cavs were down 3-1, many questions surrounded LBJ. Some questions were worthy, and some were idiotic. The most scrutinized player the NBA has ever seen dealt with doubt, angst, and impudence from the end of Game 4’s loss until the end of Game 5’s historic victory. The LeBron haters were in full effect, and the hate-watching was at an all-time high.
Some of the denunciation came from the people in Cleveland that adored him the most. It would be unfair to lump all of the city, hell or even the whole state of Ohio into the hate realm of James, but with the well-known feeling of misery on the horizon, some acted out. It may sound meek, but a simple “I’m sorry” would bode well for the ruler that wears the No.23.
For thirteen years, LeBron has spoiled NBA fans across the world, especially those in Cleveland. We live in a microcosm of criticism and the knee-jerk reactions are often tactless as opposed to focusing on the big picture, which is how truly great James is as a basketball player.
Going back to Game 4, James didn’t play up to his abilities. Many Cavs fans in the city of Cleveland were on the brink of disowning their native son just as they did when he took his talents to South Beach.
Prior to the Finals, those deeply rooted in Believeland were #ALLIN with hopes for the team’s first championship in its existence. As the Golden State Warriors inched closer to reaching the level of immortality, fair-weather fans mutated to the #AllOut moniker as it appeared that the Warriors were widely expected to have yet another champagne party for the second June in a row.
As the doubters lined up with profanity-laced rants, memes that would embrace Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan’s astounding Finals resumés, LeBron rose to the challenge. In Game 5, he showed why he is one of the greatest to lace them up in NBA history. With his Finals legacy and season on the line, he delivered a historical performance reminiscent to the legends of yesteryear. James woke up out his slumber from the previous game and destroyed the Draymond Green-less Warriors with 41 points, 16 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 steals, and 3 blocks.
Let me repeat: LEBRON HAD 41-16-7-3-3.
With the performance, LeBron upped his points per game to 32.4 in elimination games in the playoffs, which is the best mark of all-time. Not bad for someone who has been criticized for not being clutch.
Whether if it was the presence of rapper 2 Chainz sitting courtside or the feeling to go into God mode, LeBron played his best game of the season at the most important time.
The jump shots were falling, the return of the chase down blocks were in full effect, and the aggression that basketball fans have clamored for was there. Known as a pass-first player, James came out shooting as he took a game-high 30 attempts. In one point in the game, James had 25 points with zero assists… ZERO. It’s no secret that LeBron isn’t the gunner that Kobe was, nor is he is as unconscious when it comes to shooting like his teammate Kyrie Irving, but when it mattered, he put the pressure on the defense that eventually opened up the flood gates for Irving, who also scored 41 points.
‘Video Game James’ is always a sight to see, and it makes one wonder why the rage and scrutiny always follows him as his player. In a Finals elimination game against arguably the best team in NBA history, LeBron was unhuman, aggressive, and flat out great. With that said, it further proves that James’ immense talents on the basketball court continued to get snubbed and underappreciated. Those very talents have proven to be a gift and a curse, Cleveland fans know better than anyone. Having appreciation for the guy that could bring a title to the city that has been title-less for over 50 years should be a no-brainer.
A championship would create a feeling of triumph, but if it doesn’t happen, an apology should still be in the cards for LBJ. While the odds are still stacked against James and the Cavs, he is giving his city and team a fighting chance to do the impossible. No NBA team has ever faced a 3-1 deficit to come back and win a championship. If LeBron pulls the Houdini act to reel off three straight victories, the city might want to officially change its name from Cleveland to LeBronland.
If Birdman had a few words for Cavs fans, he’d probably say: Are you sorry or will you apologize? No matter how it’s interpreted, some RESPECK needs to be put on LeBron’s name.
Cleveland, please appreciate him while he’s here because someday, he’ll be gone.
Columbus, Ohio born. Ron is a first-ballot healthy hairline hall of famer. He spent the summer of ‘08 eating calamari pasta because of OJ Da Juiceman. He also loves to write about sports while listening to Sada Baby. Follow him on Twitter @Ron_Hamp