(Sports Network) - If you think about it LeBron James was criticized for
leaving Cleveland because he wasn't selfish enough.
A popular refrain among James' detractors was that the three-time MVP didn't
want to be Batman, he didn't want to be Michael Jordan. The superstar desired
to be Scottie Pippen to Dwyane Wade's Jordan in South Beach.
Label James however you want now but it must include the tag line champion
after the superstar deposited 26 points, dished out 13 assists and grabbed 11
rebounds for a triple-double Thursday night as his Miami Heat routed the
Oklahoma City Thunder, 121-106, in Game 5 of the 2012 NBA Finals.
The Finals MVP trophy, named for Bill Russell, was just icing on the cake for
James, who finally captured his first NBA title after averaging 28.6 points,
10.2 rebounds and 7.2 assists in the series.
"It's about damn time. It's about damn time," he said.
Nothing against Pippen but comparing the best basketball player on the planet
to the best role player of any generation is more than a slap in the face.
Meanwhile, expecting James to defer to Wade or buying the narrative that D-
Wade stepped aside so LeBron could take over the Heat is equally as comical.
We all need help at times and asking for it shouldn't be a sign of weakness,
even in sports.
Ignore what the revisionist historians tell you. All the greats lionized over
the years had plenty of help.
Russell, the game's "ultimate winner", played alongside a gaggle of Hall of
Famers. Jordan had the league's best perimeter defender in Pippen and later
the best rebounder in Dennis Rodman. Magic Johnson never won without Kareem
Abdul-Jabbar. Larry Bird had Kevin McHale and Robert Parrish, while more
recently Kobe Bryant needed Shaquille O'Neal until Pau Gasol came along, and
Shaq needed D-Wade post-Kobe.
Heck, on my way back from Miami, I asked for a ride from the airport rather
than take an endless series of cabs and shuttle buses. That's asking for help
and forgive me for that indiscretion.
James needed Wade and Chris Bosh, but they needed him a heck of a lot more.
Hindsight allows us to see that LeBron was never going to win without a solid
supporting cast but some of the aid he received in the NBA Finals sure came
from some rather unlikely sources.
Wade and Bosh definitely did their part but who expected Shane Battier to
morph into a Kyle Korver that plays defense in Game 2? Or how about Norris
Cole sporting the Big Daddy Kane flat-top for Game 4 and promptly scoring
eight points in seven minutes.
In that same contest, everyone's favorite whipping boy in Miami, Mario
Chalmers, netted 12 points in the final frame while in the Game 5 clincher,
Mike Miller took some time off from warming the end of the bench to play
"Uncle Drew" for the night, nailing a ridiculous 7-of-8 3-pointers (he just
Conversely, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook's supporting players never
showed up. James Harden was a disappointment while Serge Ibaka, Kendrick
Perkins and Thabo Sefolosha couldn't even reach that threshold.
As for the critics who took aim at James because he was too arrogant or
because he became a shrinking violet in big situations during last year's
finals loss to Dallas, they were really contradicting themselves by magnifying
one of his greatest attributes -- selflessness.
"It took me to go all the way to the top and then hit rock bottom to realize
what I needed to do as a professional athlete and a person," James said of
last year's setback. "I just kind of made my own path."
James is not Jordan and he's not Kobe. He's far closer to a Magic-like player
albeit with far more skill and a greater defensive acumen.
LeBron is quite simply one of the most unselfish superstars who has ever
lived. He will take the big shot but he doesn't need to. He's just as happy
facilitating for his teammates. At the other end, you just watched a
postseason in which James played four different positions at an elite level.
In fact, over the past two years in the playoffs you have seen James check
players as diverse as Lou Williams, David West, Kevin Garnett and Kevin
Durant. That's never been done before.
"I'm not one for giving guys credit during the series, but it's over," said
Durant. "That guy is an incredible player."
He even gave his haters something to cling to. After all James did end up
"choking" ... at being a "choker."
"It means everything," James said of his first championship. "I made a
difficult decision to leave Cleveland but I understood what my future was
about ... I knew we had a bright future (in Miami). This is a dream come true
for me. This is definitely when it pays off."
The Sports Network