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  • Writer's pictureKadeem M. Pilgrim

Lebron James Deserved His Flowers For Defying The Odds During The 2018 NBA Finals

Updated: May 4, 2020

Originally published on

Three games and a series of memorable memes after the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors opened the NBA Finals, the winner was announced. Despite how difficult it’s been for me to accept how the finals played out, the Warriors– at least some of them- earned their places in the coveted winners circle. That’s a truth that even the most diehard Cav’s fan can’t deny. The Warriors took home championship rings because they were in fact the better team, but this article isn’t for them. I can’t say that this article necessarily placates the major loss that Cav’s fans endured this year either. What this article does do, however, is address an observation. Throughout the playoffs, I often found myself in awe of how many self-proclaimed basketball specialists would appear from out of the crevices of social media to dissect Lebron’s performance. Everything from his facial expressions on the court to the tone in his voice during post-game press conferences were fair game for internet trolls. Lebron James got a sub par team to the NBA Championship but at the end didn’t have enough to get a win. For anyone who forewent the finals and settled for weekly Instagram recaps, I’ll give you a quick highlight. James’garnered 51 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists in Game 1 alone, following it up with 29 points in Game 2, 33 points, a triple-double, 10 rebounds and 11 assists in Game 3, and finally 23 points in Game 4. Outside of singlehandedly earning a total of 136 pts during the 2018 NBA finals, his postseason performance brought his total points scored in a 22-game season to 748, making him only second to Michael Jordan who earned a total of 759 points during the ’92 playoffs. Lebron wasn’t out here complaining when he went up against Dirk with Wade and Bosh! If the numbers aren’t enough to solidify James as one of the best NBA players period, his ability to perform under physical and mental strain should do it. During Game 4’s press conference a reporter who, much like the rest of the world, had learned of Lebron’s hand injury asked him to discuss what happened. It was his response that let me know Lebron was more than a great player, but he was also a true champion for his teammates. “Self-inflicted- postgame after Game 1- very emotional.” He paused for a moment before going on, and in that moment, you almost got the sense that he was mentally revisiting that night during game 1 when he broke his hand. “Understanding how important a Game 1 is on the road for our ball club. What that would’ve done to us.” Game after game James’ played through his pain while teammates did the bare minimum, playing as if they were solicited for a community pickup game, Honestly, I may have to amend that statement. I’ve seen junior high school students play community pickup games with more enthusiasm than most of the Cleveland Cavaliers did during postseason. Simply put, more was needed from James’ teammates than the lackluster performance that I, as well as the other 14.8 million viewers, had to suffer through this year.

Despite James’ unwavering ability to remain in the zone while his teammates floundered, his all wasn’t enough to get him to the finish line. It was, however, enough for everyone on the internet to accuse him of being a player with poor sportsmanship once his team loss the game. It was also enough to render him victim to the age-old game of comparison. Dirk Nowitzki was first! Many feel like Dirk Nowitski and the Dallas Mavericks weren’t complaining when Lebron teamed with Wade and Bosh in 2011. Dallas ultimately upset the Heat and claimed a championship. (Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images) “Dirk Nowitzki wasn’t mad when he went head to head with the Heat!” “Lebron wasn’t out here complaining when he went up against Dirk with Wade and Bosh!” The number of Nowitzki fans that came out of the wood work over the last four weeks have been real. And please don’t think that I’m saying the German phenom isn’t a great player. He’s actually one of my favorite athletes and one of my go-to’s back in the day when NBA Street was EA Sports’ biggest hit- sadly, only a few readers will know what I’m talking about. But if commentators, many of which I’m sure can’t get through a run across the street much less down a basketball court, weren’t comparing him to current players, they were busy comparing him to former greats. “If he was playing during Michael Jordan’s era he wouldn’t get half as much attention.” “If Kobe was out there he would’ve easily pulled out a win.” I hate to disappoint everyone, but we will never be able to turn back the hands of time and take Lebron with us to see how things would’ve gone if he and Jordan went head to head, nor will we ever need to use Kobe Bryant as anyone’s comparison. Bryant has even gone on record saying, “We can enjoy one without tearing down one.” The legendary Black Mamba was wise enough to spot the deleterious effects of having viewers pit players against other players for entertainment. That, in and of itself, is my point. Instead of celebrating the fact that one great team succeeded, it seems as though a majority of the focus from this year’s playoffs were centered around the loss of the other. More specifically, it seems as though viewers found satisfaction in celebrating the defeat of a man who so obviously wanted to win. Forget the fact that he’s one of the greatest basketball players of our era. We can’t give him that because he’s no Michael Jordan. Disregard the fact that he has a work ethic that is incomparable to many, if not most, of the NBA’s lineage of players. We can’t give him that because he’s no Kobe. Forget the fact that he played against a strong team damn near by himself. We can’t let him have that because Dirk did it first. At the end of the day, Lebron put in 15 seasons of hard work, and that work speaks for itself. He may go on to give the NBA another season or two, but he won’t play forever. The year that Lebron retires will be a moment in history, but it will also be yet another year of professional basketball as usual. We will continue to see great players dominate on the court and break new barriers. What makes that sad, however, is the fact that we won’t start giving Lebron his flowers until we’re using him to downplay the talent of one of those barrier breaking players. Crazy, huh?

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