Lebron James: Greatness Requires Heart
With the clock ticking down, Stephen Curry throws up a desperate three point attempt which bounces off of the rim and Marreese Speights grabbed the rebound, retreated to the three point line, and threw up an errant shot as the clock expired. The Cleveland Cavaliers accomplished what no one expected and had never been done, they came back from a 3-1 deficit against the best regular season team in NBA history and stole the title from them. The Cavaliers had to win 3 games in a row, 2 of them in Oracle Arena. What were the keys to this victory? How did Lebron James and the Cavs overcome such odds against such a good team? The answer lies in what defines greatness. Greatness requires two things, skill and heart. The Golden State Warriors have played the last two years like a team destined for greatness, and they mostly achieved that. They won an NBA championship and beat the record for regular season wins set by Michael Jordan and the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls. There is no doubting the skill of the Golden State Warriors, Stephen Curry, Steve Kerr, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green or any of the Warriors team. We have seen them achieve things we never thought possible, and we have seen them fall short of what seemed like an inevitable title. Do the Warriors lack heart?
The Warriors Collapse, or The King’s Rise?
The series turned with the Nutshot Heard Around the World. Lebron James stepped over Draymond Green, who had fallen on the floor, and Green flailed and hit Lebron in the family jewels. Fouls were called and later a suspension issued. Game 5 took place in Oakland, giving the Warriors the advantage of being at home and determined to win even without their emotional leader, Green. The first half ended in a stalemate, both teams fighting hard. The second half saw Lebron James and Kyrie Irving continue their assault on the Warriors on both sides of the court. Lebron and Kyrie both finished with 41 points apiece. Lebron finished with 41 points, 16 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 steals, and only 2 turnovers while Kyrie finished with 41 points, 3 rebounds, 6 assists, and 2 steals. The Warriors couldn’t overcome the onslaught of Kyrie’s hot hand and James’s unyielding will. In retrospect, Game 5 was the turning point for the Warriors, who lost themselves without their emotional leader. Game 5 was a turning point for the Cavaliers as well, they found themselves by following Lebron James’s leadership and digging deep within to squeeze out one more win to stay alive. One more win to give themselves and their city a chance.
Game 6 belonged to the Cavaliers from start to finish. They came out guns blazing and finished the 1st with a 31-11 lead that they never relinquished. Lebron James turned in another huge performance, scoring 41 points with 8 rebounds, 11 assists, 4 steals, and 3 blocks. Even when the Warriors went on a run and came close to catching up, the Cavaliers never allowed the Warriors to control the game. Even with Draymond Green back in the lineup, the Warriors looked lost both emotionally and on the court at times. Stephen Curry fouled out for the first time since 2013, and proceeded to melt down, scream at an official, and throw his mouthpiece into the stands, hitting a fan. Curry lost control of his emotions in a way we have not seen before, and the Warriors were unable to overcome themselves or the Cavaliers, fighting for their lives with their backs against the wall. Lebron put up a lot of points, but he also got his teammates involved, fueling them with his leadership and performance in front of a home crowd. They accomplished what seemed impossible, they forced a Game 7, and leveled the playing field for the championship to 0-0.
The final game of the NBA season, Game 7 of the Finals, was an epic battle in every way. The game was physical, with players banging around and going all out to help their team hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy. Steve Kerr and Tyronn Lue also engaged in a tense chess match with their lineups and strategies, each one trying to get just enough of an edge to go on a run and take control of the game, but neither side relented. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson could not get their shots to fall efficiently, but Draymond Green played an outstanding game. Green put up 32 points, 15 rebounds, 9 assists, and drained his 3 pointers with 6 makes on 8 attempts. Green’s incredible performance was not enough to overcome the Cavaliers. The game stayed close to the very end, with Kyrie Irving hitting an ice cold trey over Curry with 53 seconds left. Add to that one made free throw by Lebron with 10.6 left, and the Warriors were unable to come back. Lebron James led his team to victory, gave Cleveland the championship he promised, and cemented himself as one of the greatest to ever play the game of basketball. He did so with 27 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists, 2 steals, and 3 blocked shots. James was crowned the unanimous NBA Finals MVP, his third such honor in his career.
To answer the question posed by the heading of this section, the Warriors collapsed and the King rose to meet the challenge. The Warriors were put in a position where they had to overcome real adversity. Their comeback from a 3-1 deficit in the Western Conference Finals against the Thunder, though it was impressive, was not as shocking as it seemed. The Warriors were the better team, and they decided to show it. The Warriors one flaw that brought them down in defeat is that they play using their emotion, and they lack true heart. When they saw things turning against them after Game 5, they were unable to maintain their composure and focus. They were able to compete at a very high level, do not mistake it, but the Cavaliers were the ones truly in control at this point. The Warriors’s emotion was something they used to fuel themselves last year and throughout their record setting campaign, and emotion is a powerful weapon. Emotion is a weapon that can make you either unstoppable or it can be paralyzing. For the Warriors, their emotions were unstable after Game 4, they had moments where they played very well, but also moments where they were unable to be themselves. The Cavaliers showed true heart in this series, and I am not saying that because they won. They never gave up for one second after going down 3-1, even if the Warriors had won Game 5, it would have been an epic game due to the heart of James and his squad. I will point out that having suffered such a huge and painful defeat, Golden State is in a prime position to learn from their mistakes and cultivate the kind of heart that Cleveland used to win. If that happens, and these two meet in the Finals next year, that will be one epic series!
Tears of Joy https://t.co/oTiFSMWEzc
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) June 20, 2016
The Heart of a Champion
As the time expired, Kevin Love and others swarmed around Lebron James in an ecstatic group hug. Lebron collapsed to the floor weeping, his emotions overwhelming him. After coming back to Cleveland with the promise to win a title, and after all the struggle, doubt, and insurmountable odds, Lebron James and the Cavaliers pulled through. Jame’s storied career reached its climax last night, but the story is not over yet. Lebron James demonstrated exactly why he is one of the greatest. He is great because he has heart. Having heart does mean having emotion, but having heart and becoming great requires that one learns how to channel and focus your emotions through the fire of defeat and adversity. Lebron had a record of 2-6 in the Finals before last night, he knows what it feels like to get so close, only to see someone else take the glory. Lebron, through his trials and his triumphs in Miami, has learned what it takes to be a champion, and what it takes to be great. He learned that to be a champion, whether you are the favorite or you are fighting against all odds, you have to have heart. Lebron has the skill, leadership, and heart to take his team and channel their emotions through his example. In the tunnel prior to one of their last games, he told his team to follow his lead, and they followed his leadership. Lebron has learned what the difference is between being a true leader of a team and just being a superstar. A superstar is a player who is extremely talented and takes over in the clutch because he has the skills to do so. A leader of Lebron’s caliber may do the same at times, but more than anything he inspires, motivates, and makes his teammates better.
— FOX Sports Ohio (@FOXSportsOH) June 20, 2016
Lebron inspires those around him to find in themselves what drives Lebron. The Cavaliers have heart, because Lebron showed them the difference between having heart and striving to be great, as opposed to relying on emotion. Lebron has learned to stay focused, no matter what anyone says and no matter what he faces. Kyrie Irving learned from Lebron’s example, he learned through the seasons of futility how much it hurts to lose until Lebron came back. Coach Lue, who sat on the bench, head in his hands weeping, learned how to remain poised through his playing career and amidst all the noise of his rise to the head coaching job of the Cavs and all that he and his team had to overcome to be champions. Perhaps the most moving example of the heart of the Cavaliers other than Lebron, was J. R. Smith. The same Smith who was traded by the Knicks to the Cavs and was considered a problem in the locker room. The same Smith who messed with opponents laces during free throws and got into trouble off of the court. That same J. R. Smith sat before a room full of reporters and wept, talking about how much his family and his dad meant to him. He spoke of how his dad always served as an inspiration to him, that no matter what he did or what dark place he went to, his dad still loved him and tried to be there for him. After all that Smith has gone through, the dark places that he put himself in, he has persevered, learned, grown, and played with the heart of a champion. This is what greatness looks like. Greatness is having the heart and the courage to never quit, no matter the odds. Greatness is putting in the blood, sweat, and tears that no one will ever see that prepares you for the trials that you face. Greatness is influencing those around you to find within themselves the same fire forged, focused, controlled, and unrelenting heart that beats within a champion. Lebron demonstrated through his superb play, his leadership, and his heart during the Finals. Lebron James made history, because within Lebron James beats the heart of a champion, and that is why King James reigns as NBA Champion and Finals MVP. That is why Lebron James is great.