There was no denying LeBron James' talent. He's the best player in the league today and has consistently produced eye-popping stats from the start of his NBA career. And I remember wondering whether he finally gets it or not when it comes to winning a championship.
I think he does now.
There were times when it seemed a little too easy for him. A little too easy that he seemed to cruise through games. Despite the gaudy numbers, it's like he was just chillin' throughout the game (to paraphrase a certain teammate of his.
There were times when it felt like he was waiting for somebody to hand him the NBA championship. But it doesn't work that way. Nicknames, respect, and titles are earned. And for a while, it seemed like he felt he was entitled to all these things.
And, yes, there were times when LeBron should've just kept his mouth shut. Throwing teammates under the bus in Cleveland, the Decision, the parade, the excuses of too much playing time, the karma tweets, etc. The play on the court does the talking. And all the verbal talking overwhelmed him. Boy, did it speak volumes when they lost the Finals and only scored 8 points in one of the games last year against Dallas.
This year, it's all about his game. LeBron is locked in like he's never before. Instead of goofing around in pre-game, he's reading books to keep focused. Even when they were down against Boston, 3 games to 2, he never seemed to panic. He came back with a 45-point, 15-rebound game that spoke loudly about him. James knows now that nothing is handed to him; he has to take it himself. That ring is within his grasp and he's not going to wait around and put his hand out, waiting for someone to give it to him. He has to grab it and take it before someone else does.
What's probably disappointed me as a fan of his game that it took him this long to realize what he has to do. But then again, failure makes the resolve stronger. If he didn't lose last year, he would've never learned this lesson about earning it. That's what happened to Dirk Nowitzki before he won last year. That's what happened to Kobe Bryant after he and Shaq went their separate ways. That's what happened to Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce before they got together four years ago. They all shut up, experienced heartbreak, let their games do the talking, and went out and grabbed that brass ring.
Tonight, LeBron James can earn it. He finally gets it. And it's about damn time.
PHOTO CREDIT: Issac Baldizon/Getty Images.