It was roughly ten years ago when I was first introduced to the living spectacle that is LeBron Raymone James. The word was out before he even started his senior year of high school. This kid from Akron, LeBron James, was the next coming of Michael Jordan.

” Huh?”

“ There’s a high schooler already being compared to MJ?”

“ Blasphemy!”

LeBron’s legend was growing fast and he hadn’t even  earned the right to vote yet. James’ meteoric rise to fame brought on a whole new genre of televised hoops to ESPN – high school basketball. His first broadcasted game was so anticipated the network summonsed the likes of Dick Vitale and Jay Bilas to call the game. A freaking high school game!?!? I don’t recall much of what happened in the actual game.  However, I can remember thinking to myself “That LeBron is no MJ.”  Now I am not denying that I had just watched was something that I have never seen before. But what made Jordan the greatest of all time was not because he was the greatest athlete, which he undoubtedly was at one point of his career, it was his mentality that made him the G.O.A.T. Michael Jordan was an assassin. He, flat out, wanted to win more than you. No matter how hard you tried, you were never going to try as hard as Jordan. That’s why MJ was the greatest. I knew this and I did not see any of that from LeBron James.  I knew it was an unfair comparison for a teenager, but James embraced the hype and appeared to have the makings of a sure fire global icon.

During his first five years of playing professional basketball, LeBron James appeared to have the world at his fingertips. He had taken the NBA by storm. His size, strength, and raw talent gave him the ability to dominate games in ways that nobody had ever seen before. On top of that he was universally loved. James was never in any trouble and he came off as a rather humble superstar. Personally, I was all in on the LeBron James love fest. I even had my own Witness shirt. I thought that it was only a matter of time before he brought titles to the downtrodden sports fans of Cleveland.

However, as time passed in Cleveland, it appeared that James was starting to reach a plateau in his career. He seemed to have all the tools to dominate any game no matter who was on his team. Hell even he led a team whose second best player was a guy nicknamed “Boobie” to the NBA Finals. But it was becoming glaringly obvious that he wasn’t going to be able to do it on his own and his play, along with his personality, began to allow those frustrations to seep through the cracks and right smack dab into the public eye. We began to doubt his “clutchness”  and his ability to pressure. Don’t get me wrong, LeBron was still hanging triple doubles on a regular basis. He can do that in his sleep. The problem was that James was lacking the silver bullet that Michael Jordan always kept in the chamber of his weapon, killer instinct. Those who really know NBA basketball knew that watching LeBron James operate without that killer instinct is kind of like watching Fast Times at Ridgemont High on the USA Network or TNT. You know that movie kicks ass but the best parts are being cut out, rendering the entire movie completely unwatchable. We were getting USA Network LeBron, when we all were wanting to see HBO LeBron.

So we all know what happens after LeBron figures out he can’t win the title in Cleveland. He bolts for Miami to join his pals, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, to assemble the most intriguing team since the Shaq and Kobe led Lakers. Thanks to his own antics, James had the spotlight on himself more than ever. Despite taking on a new villainous role, LeBron played well and played an important role in getting the Miami Heat to the NBA Finals. At the time, it appeared he was on his way to that elusive title. But there was a problem. James wasn’t exactly playing like that player that blew us away in those high school games and early on in his NBA career. We only flashes of the LeBron James that we knew had the ability to win multiple titles. Unfortunately, what we were getting was mostly this byproduct of LeBron James who was embracing this lame ass role as one of the “Heatles”.  He spent more time acting like he didn’t care about how he was being perceived and less time inflicting pain on his opponents. Let me just say how I really felt about LeBron James last year:

He was acting like a pussy.

Yikes! Sorry about that. That one just slipped out of me, but I had to say what was really on my mind. Let me rephrase, LeBron was afraid to go mentally where had never gone before. Didn’t it seem that we were being led to believe there was always something out of LeBron’s control that was preventing him from winning a title? For instance, not having the pieces around him to compete against the best teams. Well all that changed last year after getting PUNKED by a Dallas Mavericks team that had absolutely no business winning the 2011 title. But they did and it was because LeBron did not have the intestinal fortitude to “sack up” and do what he was put on this earth to do…Lead a team to a NBA championship. After that humbling experience,  Lebron could no longer hide from the perception that he did not have enough talent to win it all. This one was on him and we were all witnesses!

With that being said, I will not waste your time and rehash what is undoubtedly being rehashed in every media outlet today. Actually, here’s what I will tell you:

We should all thank Mark Cuban, Dirk Nowitzki, and the Dallas Mavericks. Last year they did something that we have all been trying to to do for a long time now. Which was to convince LeBron James to play with heart, play like he actually cares about being the most unstoppable player on the planet, play as the leader, and to do all of this when it mattered most…in the NBA Finals. Let’s face it, LeBron is one of those once-in-a-generation talents. The problem was getting him to realize that he hadn’t tapped all of his potential. This was annoyingly hard to believe, yet unfortunately true. But thanks to the Mavericks, this was the season that LeBron FINALLY realized that becoming a NBA legend was never going to be handed to him. It is 2012 and Lebron James, a 9 year veteran of the NBA, has found his moment of clarity. It was an undeniable performance. Like him or not, what we just witnessed could be the start of an era for LeBron. It legitimately possible for LeBron James to put move his legacy into the same pantheon as a Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, or even a Michael Jordan. Its up to LeBron though and he is going to need more of those titles he promised to get there. . For now we can all now move on with our lives and stop dissecting LeBron James’ inability to become a champion. And I don’t think anyone else could sum it up any better than the King himself,

“It’s about damn time.”


-Drew Stratton