This won’t go over well here in Boston. But I’ve found myself rooting for LeBron James.
It’s not like I planned on it. And to be completely honest, it’s not something I want to do, either.
Look, I’m born and raised in Southie. Still here. Not leaving. And even though I spent most winters and summers inside a hockey rink as a kid, the Boston Celtics were a major part of my childhood. I don’t own any Bruins apparel, but I do have an Antoine Walker jersey — which I adore, by the way — somewhere at the bottom of my bureau. Heck, my father has a Larry Bird tattoo. So you know the Green runs deep.
I was in the Garden — as a fan — when LeBron put up 45 on the C’s in Game 6 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals. I wasn’t rooting for him then, obviously.
But now, three years later, without a horse in the race, I’m pulling for the best player on the planet to win his third NBA Championship.
Again, I never expected to feel this way, going into the Finals. But the more I had to hear NBA “experts” tell me that LeBron and the Cavaliers had no chance against the Golden State Warriors without Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, the more I wondered if they were telling us something they actually believed in, or something they wanted to see happen. These are the same people telling me that LeBron "can’t finish” after he finished an NBA Finals overtime win on the road with a 39-point triple-double while playing 50 of the game’s 53 minutes. Oh, OK.
As I write this, the Cavs lead the Warriors 2-games-to-1. You have to expect Steph Curry will shoot the lights out in at least one of these upcoming games. But if he doesn’t, you’ll hear that Golden State “choked,” not “LeBron won a championship with a group that has no business playing basketball in June.”
Facts are facts. And those who refuse to give LeBron credit, or those who counted him out the moment Irving got hurt, are either Golden State Warriors fans or they’re purposely ignoring the facts.
The facts are that when the Finals are over, LeBron James will have averaged 40 points per game. He may even end up averaging a triple-double per game when it’s all said and done. Not impressed yet? OK, well, Lebron will also average somewhere close to 48 minutes per game when the Larry O’Brien Trophy is handed out. For those who need to be reminded, 48 minutes is exactly how long a regulation NBA game lasts.
Those who aren’t blinking an eye at those numbers continue to yell and scream Michael Jordan’s name. Instead of appreciating greatness, they keep reminding us of greats from the past. They won’t acknowledge that going to five straight NBA Finals is absolutely insane. And not just going, but leading the way. And I've got news for you. It’s going to be six straight, probably seven straight, and maybe even eight straight. That’s how good this guy is.
Listen, if the Cavs play the Celtics in next year’s playoffs, I’ll be rocking my Walker jersey. But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be able to acknowledge insane feats when they happen. And if LeBron wins a championship this year, with this group, that’s an insane feat.
And unexpectedly, it’s one that I find myself rooting for.
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