The big news from Wednesday night, apart from the results of both games, was that LeBron James apologized for how his departure from Cleveland went down in July 2010. Between "The Decision" and the subsequent Miami welcome party, LeBron built up enough bad blood to alienate an entire nation of basketball fans, turning him from the people's champion into their primary enemy. So this apology was a long time coming, and a mark of some newfound maturity for LeBron.
Yahoo!'s own Adrian Wojnarowksi summed up the mood well in his postgame column:
Beating Boston didn't inspire bravado out of James, but contrition. "I couldn't do it by myself against that team," James said. "I apologize for the way it happened, but I knew this opportunity was once in a lifetime."
As moments to make an apology go, it probably won't please Cleveland that James chose the end of the victorious conference semifinal series that he lost for them a year ago. For all his talent and regular-season productions, this has been a year of failures when everyone's been examining him most closely. James deserved the criticism that had come his way a year ago. He had earned it, but he had earned this victory with 33 points and his part in a hellacious defense.
LeBron showed humility, apologizing to Cleveland and praising Boston for its greatness. But while he deserves credit for his display of gratitude, it's important to remember that it happened after a phenomenal performance on the basketball court. Once again, he was at the top of the basketball world. And when that's the case, fans are more willing to accept an apology. Maybe it took him so long to say he was sorry because this was the time when most fans were ready to hear it.
Clearly, an earlier apology would have made an impact -- people are usually willing to accept a gesture of humility when it's warranted. But, in the wake of an absolutely dominant game-closing performance to finish off the Celtics, LeBron picked the perfect time to open up to people. As Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan and others have shown, personal failings are often forgiven when an athlete dominates his profession. LeBron has been the best player for several seasons now, but this year fans thought his and the Heat's posturing had gone too far. Without having proven anything, they anointed themselves champions. On Wednesday night, they finally accomplished something worthwhile. Suddenly, the hype was more justified, and LeBron could be viewed as the best player in the game, with reason, again.
LeBron still hasn't accomplished the ultimate in winning a championship, and there are likely to be fans that think he didn't prove much if he does it with serious help from Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. For now, though, King James is back on his throne, with mainstream appeal. It's all part of his journey back to, and beyond, his former status as the Chosen One. Wednesday night, he accomplished something great. The apology was the logical next step.
- LeBron James