Game 7 of the NBA Finals, the biggest stage in the sport, took place in Miami on Thursday night. It was finally the last game of a long, hard-fought series between the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs.
The Heat were up by two points with 27 seconds remaining in the entire season. LeBron James had the ball, and did what he was doing all night — nailed a mid-range jumpshot to put the Heat up four and seemingly ice the championship for Miami. After another Manu Ginobili turnover, James was fouled and made two free throws, ending any bit of hope the Spurs had of winning the game.
LeBron James gets his fair share of love and support from many NBA fans, but he also has about as many detractors as any player in the game. “He’s not clutch,” “He can’t make a consistent jumpshot,” “He’ll never be as good as Jordan.” We’ve heard just about every kind of criticism when it comes to LeBron James’ game. But he proved all doubters wrong once again on Thursday.
James scored 37 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and had four assists on the NBA’s biggest stage. He was clearly the best player on the court and in the series. He was awarded with his second NBA Finals MVP award immediately after the game, having averaged 25 points, 11 rebounds and 7 assists per game during the series.
LeBron started off slowly during the first three games of the series and arguably played the worst game of his life in Game 3 at San Antonio. The Heat were down two games to one heading into Game 4, and James turned up the heat. He scored 33 points and the Heat won by 16, evening the series.
The Heat lost Game 5 and faced back-to-back elimination games at home, but James took the team on his shoulders and dropped a triple-double in a memorable Game 6 and well, you know the rest.
James became the first player since Michael Jordan to win back-to-back MVPs (regular season and finals) and NBA championships. He also tied the record with most points scored in an NBA Finals Game 7 victory. His 34.4-points per game in Game 7s is still the highest in NBA history. In 13 career elimination games, he also holds the highest scoring average in history at nearly 32 points a game.
Through his first 10 NBA seasons, James compares pretty well to Jordan. He has four MVPs, two Finals MVPs and two championships. Jordan had three MVPs, three Finals MVPs and three championships through his first 10 years. LeBron is a young 28 years-old and will only continue to get better.
A big difference between Jordan and James that people often look past or don’t even notice is that Jordan played three seasons of college ball at North Carolina. James came into the NBA straight out of high school at 18 years old. Jordan was able to get acclimated to playing the game at a high level, working with teammates and having to deal with any criticism and pressure while at UNC.
James was just a young kid out of Akron, Ohio, who had to adapt to the NBA game and lifestyle immediately, while carrying the pressure of being anointed as “The Chosen One” and the next big thing in the sport. His game was still raw and it showed in the early stages of his career. His Cavaliers were swept in the 2007 NBA Finals by the Spurs and LeBron once again lost in the NBA Finals in 2011 to the Dallas Mavericks during his first season with the Heat.
James lacked a consistent jumper and he heard every kind of criticism after the 2011 Finals loss, but that Game 6 loss to Dallas on his home floor made James hungrier than ever. He went to work and came back last season with an improved jumper and won his first title with the Heat.
After winning his second ring Thursday, James is on top of the game. He is the best basketball player in the world currently and is only going to get better. Sure, James is still three rings away from tying Kobe, and four away from tying Jordan, but he has many more years to play, and as he noted Thursday night, he “ain’t got no worries.”
Scott Proietti is an intern reporter for the Cumberland Times-News.