While there were several compelling stories regarding Miami's rise to the top, including veteran Juwan Howard winning his first championship at the age of 39 and unheralded players like Shane Battier, Mario Chalmers, and Mike Miller also capturing their first rings by stepping up and hitting big shot after big shot, the story that has captivated everyone is LeBron James finally breaking through to win his first title.
Ever since he was a sophomore at St. Vincent - St. Mary High School, James has been lauded as "the next Michael Jordan," the future GOAT (which stands for "Greatest of All-Time," in case you thought it stood for something else that James has been called in the past).
Up until this year, James had lived up to the hype - in the regular season. And while he had also given us some memorable playoff games (i.e., 48 points against the Detroit Pistons in Game 5 of the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals, including scoring the final 25 points for his team, which was the Cleveland Cavaliers at the time), he had always come up short on the NBA's biggest stage.
Entering this season, James had been to the Finals on two occasions, once in '07 with the Cavaliers, when his team was swept by the San Antonio Spurs, and again last year, when the Big Three of he, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh blew a 2-1 series lead against the Dirk Nowitski-led Dallas Mavericks, falling in six games.
The first time, James was said to be too young and inexperienced, but it was expected that he would win multiple championships before long. However, thanks to the likes of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Rajon Rondo of the Boston Celtics and a failed experiment that saw Shaquille O'Neal sign with Cleveland to "Win a ring for the King," James ultimately chose to leave his home state and take his talents to South Beach in the infamous show known as "The Decision."
James' move to Miami drew much criticism and caused many to look at him in a new light - and not a positive one. People began to hate James, to say that he would never be as good as Jordan or even Kobe Bryant, to overlook the fact that he is one of the most unselfish superstars in NBA history.
The thing is, when James made his first trip to the Finals in '07, he carried the Cavaliers on his back, but he was too young and inexperienced at the time, and that's what held him back. He also had no supporting cast.
In the summer of 2010, James was given his supporting cast. While it was extremely tough for him to leave the state of Ohio, the only place he had ever known, he knew that in order to win a championship, he would likely have to. After all, Jordan never won anything without Scottie Pippen. Kobe still hasn't won a title without Derek Fisher. Magic had Kareem. Bird had Parrish and McHale.
To win a ring by yourself, well, that simply isn't possible. Basketball is a team sport, in case you've forgotten.
I know that James will never win over all of his detractors. He will never impress people like ESPN's Skip Bayless enough to be anything other than Robin to Wade's Batman. People will always remember him for "The Decision" and for some of the other mistakes he has made, in large part because of, again, his youth and inexperience. They will always look at the times he has come up short in the clutch.
My question is this: how would you feel to have the whole world on your shoulders? How would you feel to be a teenager and already have people comparing you to the great Michael Jordan?
Shoot, when I was a teenager, all I was worried about was what kind of after-school snack I was going to have or what kind of girl I was going to date one day. For James, it was the cover of Sports Illustrated and constant coverage by ESPN. That's a lot for a kid in high school to handle. Real life is hard enough. Premature superstardom is almost impossible.
In my opinion, James has handled it about as well as could have been expected. And I'm sure he would tell you that he no longer cares about all the crap that he endured throughout his first several seasons in the NBA. I'm sure he would tell you that all of that made him the player and the man that he is today. I'm sure he would tell you that he's just happy to be LeBron James, NBA Champion.
By the way, speaking of being young, dude's still only 27 years old.
Congratulations, LeBron. You've earned the right to celebrate. You've earned the right to be called "The King."
Josh McKinney has been a supporter of LeBron James ever since he first came on the scene back in the early 2000s. He was a huge Cleveland Cavaliers fan during James' time there and while he was a little angry about him choosing to leave for a while, he now realizes that James simply did what was best for him.