LeBron James is ballin' pretty hard at the moment. This is not breaking news to anyone who watched the Miami Heat star play like the league's presumptive Most Valuable Player night in and night out this season, but his game's been sharp through two playoff games (both double-digit wins) against the New York Knicks.
He dominated Game 1 with his scoring (32 points on 14 shots) and controlled Game 2 with his floor game (nine assists, seven rebounds). He's got just four turnovers in 72 total minutes, despite using more than 30 percent of Miami's possessions. And he's rocking a crisp 35.2 Player Efficiency Rating (remember, 15 is the league average) to start the postseason.
It's still early, and it sure doesn't look like the Knicks are going to put up enough of a fight to teach us anything about whether this Heat team and this year's model of LeBron are different from/better than the one that wilted in the NBA Finals against the Dallas Mavericks a year ago, but so far, so good. James looks motivated with every move he makes ... including when he smiles. From Chris Tomasson at Fox Sports Florida:
[...] James during this playoffs is wearing a mouthguard that reads on the front "XVI." That's 16 in Roman numerals, and that is how many postseason wins it will take the Heat to get James his first championship.
"You pay attention," James said to a reporter. "It's just inspirational. I know this is the biggest part of the season, the second part of the season, so it's just an inspiration for me." [...]
"It's 16 games, but I know it starts with one at a time," James said.
The "XVI" is a bit more understated and tastefully done than the fanged mouthguard he sported for Halloween back in 2010, but it's pretty cool nonetheless. And while it's unlikely that when the game gets tough — which will presumably not happen until Miami faces an opponent not wearing blue and orange — James will find that extra bit of oomph he needs to go over the top by remembering that he has Roman numerals on his teeth, it's another indication that he has his attention focused squarely on the collective goal of a championship rather than the individual glory of, say, the third MVP he's likely to soon put on his mantel.
Teammate Chris Bosh (who's been pretty good himself, hitting 52.6 percent of his shots, sharing the ball and significantly outperforming last year's per-minute production thus far) wasn't aware of the deep, rich symbolism of Bron-Bron's chicklet protector, according to Tomasson. Now he knows, though, and knowing is apparently half the battle when it comes to not knowing about numbers:
"I didn't even know," Bosh said after he was told. "I was wondering what that means. That is the biggest number in the world. Not too many of us have gotten 16 wins in a playoffs. It's going to be the hardest thing to ever do. I think it's great symbolism."
Nice try, Chris Bosh, but there are actually a lot of numbers bigger than 16. Like, loads of them. We can list them if you want, but it would probably take forever, because seriously, there are so many.
Bosh is less wrong about there being not too many people who have gotten 16 wins in a playoff — the NBA went to a postseason format in which every round was a best-of-seven for the 2003 playoffs — but still kind of wrong, because that means everyone on the Finals roster for a team that won the NBA championship since 2003 has won 16 games in a playoff, and that list is 101 dudes long. Bosh is more correct, of course, if you read "us" as "guys in the current version of the Miami Heat's locker room," since that number is just two — Udonis Haslem and Dwyane Wade.
And Bosh has to be wrong about winning 16 playoff games being the hardest thing ever to do. I am thinking, for example, about the building of a pyramid. That must have been pretty rough. Also, passing universal health care legislation seems like it is very difficult. There's lots of things; you should feel free to share your examples in the comments.
Screencap via Larry Brown Sports.
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