Friday, June 01, 2007

Will they get off LeBron's back now?!

An incredible, amazing, fantastic, yes, even Jordan-esque performance from LeBron James elevates the Cavaliers to the brink of the Finals

Check out 'Sheed's face as Bron nails yet another clutch jumper

"One of the great performances all-time in playoff history."--Marv Albert

"Did you know that you were this good?"--Craig Sager
LeBron, smiling sheepishly-- "No."

LeBron James' Nike campaign slogan uses the brilliant subtlety of a simple word: 'Witness'.

Tonight we did.

I'm not really sure to begin describing what I just witnessed, as the Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Detroit Pistons, 109-107 in double-overtime to take a 3-2 series lead, but I guess I'll start with the numbers, because they are so mind-boggling:

  • 48 total points
  • 25 consecutive Cavs points to end the game
  • scored 28 of his team's last 29 points
  • 35 points after halftime
  • 18-33 from field
  • 9 rebs, 7 assists, 2 steals

But numbers don't always do a story justice, and this game tonight between the Pistons and Cavs was about much more than numbers, although the Cavaliers are happy to be headed home with a 3-2 series advantage.

Because more than just put up nearly half a hundy en route to knocking off the 5-time conference finalist Pistons in their own building in double OT, King James took his custom Nikes and stomped on all the haters who have criticized his every move, endorsement deal and ill-advised pass on his way to becoming the face of the NBA.

Perhaps all the griping had to do with the fact that he was a poster boy for over-exposed high school athletes from the age of 14, or that he inked a $90 million dollar contract with the swoosh empire before he ever laced up a sneaker on an NBA court....

...or it might have been the fact that he has never given the haters reason to actually hate him; he's stayed clean off the court, has never been seen brandishing a firearm, wagering on 'roided-up Rotties, or raining bags full of his millions down on unsuspecting exotic dancers. Sure he had an incident or two, like walking off the court or snubbing a teammate or coach here and there...

...but c'mon, the kid is just 22 and in four years has given hoop fans more highlights and memorable moments this side of Dwayne Wade, and with Wade hurting and the Cavs poised to make it to the Finals for the first time in franchise history, the time is now for LeBron to silence his critics and take the league by the balls.

Tonight LeBron did something that few other players have done since His Airness exited the league-the first time: put his team on his back and willed them to victory by scoring a slew of outrageous, jaw-dropping shots from all over the court and stunning a favored team in their own crib.

He hit long fadeaways. He hit driving layups. He nailed threes. He got fouled and hit 10-14 free throws. Oh yeah, and he had three monster dunks late in the game, plus a knifing layup through four Pistons that turned out to be the game winner.

Tonight, all critics will reluctantly agree, was truly LeBron's "welcome to the NBA" moment.

I'm just glad I got to witness it.

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