This year’s NBA Finals produced the event’s best television ratings since 2004.
But with so many people hoping to see Miami lose, you have to wonder if the postgame show and trophy presentation drew a record low number of viewers.
The Heat may have had an easy path through the Eastern Conference playoffs — avoiding the top-seeded Bulls, thanks to Derrick Rose’s untimely knee injury — but the five-game victory over Oklahoma City was plenty convincing.
So what does this do for the legacy of LeBron James?
Well, he obviously won’t have to listen to any more talk about his fourth-quarter failures or how he lacks the “clutch gene.” James didn’t hit any buzzer-beaters during the playoffs, but did plenty of damage when the Heat dominated crunchtime of Games 2, 3 and 4 vs. Oklahoma City.
James averaged 28.6 points, 10.2 rebounds and 7.4 assists against the Thunder. A year ago, when Miami lost to Dallas in the Finals, James produced 17.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 6.8 assists. His shooting percentage was slightly better against Dallas (.478) than it was vs. OKC (.472).
In all reality, winning a championship doesn’t do much for James’ reputation as one of the all-time greats. We knew long ago that he might be the most gifted athlete to ever play in the NBA. His third MVP award was further proof.
It’s ridiculous to say James needed a championship to validate his talent. Charles Barkley, Karl Malone and Patrick Ewing were great players regardless of whether or not they won a title. Not as great as Michael Jordan, but still great.
So now James has an NBA title. So does Eddy Curry and Juwan Howard. The biggest difference between Miami winning this year and losing last year wasn’t James. It was Miami’s supporting cast — Shane Battier, Mario Chalmers and Mike Miller — taking turns playing out of their minds in the Finals.
Miller, who was practically useless the past two seasons since joining the Heat, knocked down 7 of 8 shots from 3-point range against OKC.
As far as James changing his image as a player fans love to hate, that may take some time. He’s still living with the perception that he abandoned fans in his home state of Ohio and took the easy way out by joining all-stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami.
Columns have been written recently asking what James ever did to become so unpopular? The answer is simple to anyone who has followed the NBA. James isn’t a bad guy, by any means, but he took a series of missteps that are still fresh in people’s minds.
There was the absurd sideline dancing during Cleveland’s two 60-win seasons, which certainly stretched the bounds of good sportsmanship. Then came the baffling playoff performance against Boston in 2010, the “Decision” TV special and a victory rally in Miami that preceded any actual victories.
That’s why so many people pulled for the Heat to lose. Dirk Nowitzki won far fewer games in Dallas than James did over a two-year stretch in Cleveland, but Nowitzki stayed loyal and finally won a title with the Mavs last year. That’s a move American sports fans can appreciate.
James bailed out on his economically repressed hometown to lounge in South Beach. It was the plotline of “Major League” come to life.
There’s always a natural tendency to root for the underdog. Jordan somehow managed to be dominant on the court and enormously popular around the world.
Since his popularity already took a hit, James will never be Jordan. But if he learns from his mistakes and keeps playing well, people will forgive and forget over time.Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.