Thursday, May 26, 2016

Lebron James chasing history

If he can make it to a sixth straight NBA Finals -- and it certainly appears likely -- Lebron Ramone James will join a very short list of those to ever accomplish it. And most of them are Boston Celtics from a long time ago.

From the mid-50s to mid 60s, the Beantowners of yesteryear had quite the dynasty going on. Some of the players were Bill Russell, a couple Jones boys, Tom Heinsohn, Bob Cousy, and Bill (don't squeeze the) Sharman. From the beginning of Eisenhower's second term in the White House until midway through LBJ's tenure, the Celtics were the cream of the crop in the NBA.

[It should be noted that back then the NBA only had seven teams. Be it in the "East" or "West", a team only had to be better than two or three opponents in their conference to reach the Finals. The boom of "expansion" was yet to happen. However, to be fair, such a small field also meant only the very best players of their time would ever make it onto a roster. It cuts both ways.]

Lebron James has had mixed success over the last five years when reaching the Finals. Consider the years and results----

Pre-2011 he toiled for the Cleveland Cavaliers but could never get them into the Finals. As great as he was, the one man show just wasn't good enough.

2011. Amid much fanfare, he and fellow free-agent Chris Bosh from the Toronto Raptors "took their talents" to Miami. There, they would join up with Dwyane Wade. We all remember their grand entrance and prediction. Not one, not two, not three.... when it came to winning titles. They were quite smug about it. They would indeed make the Finals, but go down to the Dallas Mavericks 4 games to 2. Oops.

2012. They got it together and marched to their first title, dispatching Oklahoma City 4-1. Lebron finally had his ring.

2013. Once again in the Finals, they nipped the San Antonio Spurs 4-3. Back to back titles.

2014. The "three-peat" didn't work out. The Spurs would get their revenge in the Finals by rolling over the South Beachers 4-1.

2015. Then Lebron semi-shocked the world by announcing he was going back to Cleveland. Like in Miami, this time he had some serious help in the form of Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving. But as fate would have it, the K-boys were injured when the Cavs finally made another Finals. After leading 2-1, they would see Golden State roar back and trounce them three games in a row. The Warriors and the "Splash Brothers" were all the rage, and deservedly so. But in truth, they had defeated a Cleveland team without two of their best players. Once again, Lebron's heroics fell short.

So add up the above and what do you have? Lebron James has been to the NBA Finals five years in a row (for two different teams) and has a 2-3 record to show for it. It's very impressive in one way, but not so much in another. Sports fans have a way of quickly forgetting about which team came in second. Even some players feel the same way. Tiger Woods once famously said, "coming in second only means you were the top loser". Point noted.

Given James and the present-days Cavs appear poised to make it to the Finals once again (after the demolition they put on Toronto in Game 5, few have any doubt of the eventual outcome), it will be interesting to see how Lebron and Co. fare once they get there.

Barring a miraculous comeback, the defending champ Warriors, already down 3-1 to the OKC Thunder, appear to be one year wonders. Maybe two, considering the all-time best regular season record they put up this year. But how much does that matter if they can't even make it back to Finals again? They get a place in the history books, and that's about all.

The two teams right now playing at a super-high level are Cleveland and OKC. It's not a lock yet they'll meet in the Finals, but it surely appears highly likely.

And then what might happen? Will Lebron and his mates finally be able to bring a professional championship to his beloved Cleveland -- something the Lake Erie-ites haven't known in any sport for over a half century? That would lift him up to a 3-3 record in championship series'. A .500 record. True, countless really good players have toiled away for years in the past on various teams and never even made it to a SINGLE Finals, let alone won a ring. It all depends on how one wishes to look at it.

But the standards for Lebron James have been set much higher. Close isn't good enough. It's not just the media. LJ himself has freely admitted in the past he would rather not even MAKE it to a Finals -- only to lose once there. Believe that if you will, but count yours truly skeptical. You can't win it if you don't at least GET there, and most players are thrilled to enjoy the experience. (Don't forget the owners either. They get major cha-chings along the way the further their team goes.) Yet he has got there -- 5 years running -- with a sixth likely coming up soon.

If it turns out the way it's currently looking, Lebron and his Cavs will have a daunting task indeed taking on the OKC Thunder.

That would leave questions the media hounds haven't addressed yet. What if he gets there again -- only to lose again? His Finals record would then be 2-4. This is by far the best team he's ever had to play with in Cleveland. What would the King do then? It's not like there's anyplace else for him to go. He already made his bed when he returned to Cleveland out of "home town" loyalty. For better or worse, he has to sleep in it. If he jumped ship for another team (and where would he find a better one?) in quest of another ring, it would expose him as nothing more than a mercenary -- rather than a local boy trying to bring glory to his long-joyless homies. Nice guy or not, the press would eat him alive. Even kings have their limitations in the public relations world. The legacy he has so carefully tried to cultivate over the years would go up in flames.

Nonetheless, here's wishing him the best. Personally, yours truly has always been a big fan of Lebron Ramone James. Besides his obvious talent, he's a good man off the court. Nary a hint of any sort of scandal over the years. Then again, he does have this nasty habit of "flopping" once in a while during games, and hawking a Korean car he supposedly drives for even more money he obviously doesn't need. But everybody has their flaws.

Except maybe my ex, and a couple current Presidential candidates. They're perfect. Just ask them. They'll tell you. And all of them want your money to further their own interests. But I digress.

Bring on the 2016 NBA Finals. It should be quite the exciting series indeed.

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