LeBron James, what can you say? LeBron’s been the villain, the hero, the loser, the winner, the reason for failure and the reason for success. What is he now? The most feared player in the NBA. It was only two years ago LeBron was the most hated and criticised athlete on the planet. For the most part, it was well deserved.
Why, you might ask?
The undeniable fact that he gave up on the Cleveland Cavaliers during Game 5 of the 2011 Conference Finals. The shameful way in which he departed Cleveland and the state he left the organisation in ‘The Decision’ debacle. The easy option for a Championship by joining superstar Dywane Wade, his inability to perform in the clutch, and the obvious mental demons James faced after falling victim to a remarkably determined German Assassin – Dirk Werner Nowitzki.
Dirk’s performance in the 2011 NBA Playoffs is one of my favourites of all time. It was one of the most clinical and dominating displays I’ve ever seen in sport. It seriously got to the point that if one of Dirk’s shots didn’t drop, we were like, “Wow, that’s strange, this is weird, I feel weird … wait, Dirk just scored on Bosh again, I’m back to feeling normal!”. He was the definition of clutch, especially in the Finals.
Game 2: Nowitzki’s layup on Bosh to steal the game after being down 15 points in the 4th quarter.
Game 4: Dallas, again, were down by 9 points with just over 10 minutes to go in the final quarter. Dirk gets by Haslem for a layup to give the Mavs a 3-point lead with 6.7 seconds left. Oh yeah, Dirk was sick as a dog and played with an extremely high fever.
Game 6: Dirk’s double pump baseline jumper, plus an important layup with 33 seconds left, both on Bosh. After going 1/11 in the first half, while on the road Dirk scored 10 of his 21 points in the 4th to close out the series and win his first NBA Championship.
He was unguardable; it’s amazing how many times you see Dirk scoring on Haslem and Bosh in the video above. They both would still have nightmares about the German Assassin.
Like it or not, LeBron was an enormous reason why the TV ratings for Game 6 reached its highest ever since the 2000 Final series. It doesn’t matter if you were hoping he failed (like most people, especially Cleveland fans), or cheering him on, he demanded our attention and still does.
This loss was a defining point in LeBron’s career; it’s where the new LeBron James was born. The LeBron that isn’t scared to take the big shot, the LeBron who can take his game down low, the LeBron that wants the ball when the game is on the line. The LeBron that knows he’s the best player on the court. It’s a confident LeBron that has a frightening amount of potential.
Miami’s recent win-streak of 27 games is something I will remember for the rest of my life. The other significant NBA accomplishment in my lifetime that stands out as being truly amazing is Kobe Bryant’s 81-point game. As Sports fans we just enjoy winning, we relish moments like win streaks, we gain severe enjoyment when we see outstanding performances (i.e. Dirk above, watch the video again, it’s still just as incredible even after the 30th time!); it’s just human nature to like success.
LeBron has used winning and the unimaginable to crawl his way back into our subconscious. It might seem like it happened overnight, but I’m sure LeBron will tell you otherwise.
LeBron started taking control of his own fate last season; we always knew he was good, but there was a level of uncertainty in himself that kept James from being great. James finally went into the post-season with a purpose. LeBron’s performance during the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals against Boston was spectacular. In the 7-Game series James averaged 33.6 points, 11 rebounds, shot 53 percent from the floor, scored 30 or more points in six games, and five of those games pulled down 10 or more rebounds. It was LeBron’s Game 6 performance that will stick in my mind forever. The King went for 19/26, 45 points, 15 rebounds and 5 assists.
Why was this so unreal? Where do I start?!
Boston had won the last three games and had all the momentum, it was an Elimination Game, Miami were on the road, and James displayed a comprehensive array of ability. He faded left, he faded right, he posted up, he nailed 3s, he dunked, he threw up tear drops, he beat double teams, triple teams, went coast-to-coast, had a 3-point play, hit 12 out of his first 13 shots, had 30 points in the first half, he banked shots, and had left-handed finishes. Did I mention it was an Elimination Game on the road at the TD Garden in Boston?!?! No one could stop him, not even a veteran Boston side who had been to the Finals twice in the previous four seasons, and not even a young resilient Oklahoma City Thunder team with a gifted 6’9′ freak – Kevin Durant.
Believe it or not, James has stepped his game up to another level this year. James made history this season when he was the first player in the NBA to ever have six games with 30 or more points while shooting 60 percentage from the floor. During this remarkable stretch LeBron made 66/92 field goals, shooting 77.1% (the NBA shooting average this season is around 49.3%).
It wasn’t long after that LeBron and the Miami Heat team found themselves on a historical winning streak. The Heat won 27 games straight, which is the second longest in NBA history behind the 1971-1972 Los Angeles Lakers. I could go into detail as to why I believe the Heat’s streak is more impressive (there were only 16 teams in the league in 1971-1972, the amount of shots taken, the much higher emphasis on defense in today’s game …); however, I want to get to the whole reason why I started this article.
I was watching Mike and Mike (ESPN sports radio) in the morning and they pulled up some amazing statistics on Kevin Durant. This season Durant is averaging 28.8 points, 7.9 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game. Mike and Mike outlined that if Durant can get his rebounds up from 7.9 to 8.0 per game by the end of the season, he will be the 10th player in NBA history to average 28 or more points, 8 or more rebounds, and 4 or more assists in one regular season. Impressive right? What’s even more extraordinary is the list of players he will join if he manages to do this:
- Elgin Baylor
- Wilt Chamberlain
- Bob Mcadoo
- John Havlicek
- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
- Wilt Chamberlain
- Oscar Robertson
- David Robinson
- Larry Bird (twice)
- Michael Jordan (twice)
Stupidly amazing bunch of players to be mentioned with.
I did some more research and found out that Durant is also in line to join the 50-40-90 club (50% field goals, 40% from 3-point range, and 90% from the free throw line). Durant leads the league in scoring and is shooting career highs in field goal and free throw percentage (.505% &.908%), plus having his second best season from behind the arc at .410%. If Durant can keep this up for the rest of the regular season, he will be the sixth player in NBA history to achieve this remarkable accomplishment. The other players to attain the remarkable feat are: Larry Bird (86-87, 87-88), Mark Price (88-89), Reggie Miller (93-94), Dirk Nowitzki (06-07), and Steve Nash (05-06, 06-07, 07-08, 08-09, 09-10).
These two stats speak for themselves, so does the video below.
I love that in 40 years I’ll be able to say that I witnessed some of the most extraordinary achievements in sport, things that will stay with me forever because they were truly amazing. Kevin Durant and his irrefutable talent is something I will remember for life. He has a chance to win his fourth consecutive scoring title (first player to do so since MJ), he single-handedly carried the recent USA Basketball team, won the FIBA World Championship MVP while setting record for scoring, and is only 24 years old! Kevin Durant is a stud. It’s very likely that Durant will cement himself in NBA history with the above achievements by the end of the season; if not both, certainly the 50-40-90 club. It’s unfortunate for Durant that every time we reminisce about his accomplishments and this unreal era of basketball, LeBron’s greatness will be overshadowing his legacy