With one shot, LeBron James attempted to excise his demons. Ten consecutive points later, to close out the game, they were cast out. The Boston Celtic haunted James and his would-be legacy. Now, they are the ones defeated with questions to answer all summer, they have taken on James’ role in previous years.
With just over two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, James rose up for a three, the type of shot everyone has seen clang off the iron countless times in the past. Why should this time be any different? It is a gut feeling to think that it will miss, to think that James still does not possess what it takes to ascend the stairs to the realm of clutch. He is still the same person who quit on the Cleveland Cavaliers last year against the Celtics, we think to ourselves. He is the same person who stroked his ego on national television and abandoned his home state. Nothing has really changed. He is still the same person and therefore we think we know the outcome of the shot before he even squares up to take it.
Only this time there was not an audible sound of leather striking iron. We were wrong, the ball went in. This was just the beginning, however. The ball was in his hands yet again with 40 seconds remaining. James took another shot from behind the arc.
Again, we reverted to our misgivings about his character. We knew that this one would miss. Our vindication was at hand. With this miss we could revel in our smugness. We knew nothing. James drained it, and then he stopped for a moment. He wanted us to see him. He posed. Miami cheered. He was doing what many said he never could and many never wanted to see him do.
As one final cap to his run that sealed the win over Boston, James stole the ball, looked behind him at the defeated Celtics, dribbled, then dunked unopposed. The moment was his.
We watched. We watched not having seen James put his team on his back down the stretch since the Cavaliers defeated the Detroit Pistons in 2007 when he scored the last 25 points for his then team. Has he ever performed such a feat since? We have selective memories and could not think of any. Why should we, anyway? James just proved us wrong and we are bitter.
Though our eyes were widened by James’ performance, and that of the Heat, against the Celtics, they will soon narrow again. We are always looking to level “constructive” criticism where we see fit. That is what we are here for, is it not? We must pry into every crack in his facade. We must continue to doubt him. He must remain the antagonist. Without him, we have nothing, and in turn, are nothing. We need him. When he wins, we are defeated.
James has silenced “us.” He can celebrate all he wants as he has leveled his most glaring obstacle. In the Celtics, though, he found himself. They were his motivation. In his path through life there will be many more impediments, some real and some that we create for him. That is the price of celebrity as we see it. For one series, at least, James has vindicated himself and nothing can detract from that.