Lebron’s Championship Asterisk

Lebron isn’t being defined by what he has done or rather hasn’t done in the 4th quarter. He wasn’t given a blank sheet to start a new legacy when he uttered the now most overused phrase in sports. When Lebron James took his talents to South Beach his legacy became partially defined no matter how many championships he won.

The Chosen One has already given up his opportunity to be considered one of the best champions in NBA history. He gave it up when he decided that he needed help to be mentioned in the same breath as Michael Jordan and Bill Russell. Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh can’t elevate him to that status. They’re the reason he can’t reach it.

If Lebron James ever does win a championship they should put an asterisk beside his name in the record books.

He doesn’t deserve to be given the full credit like other superstars have been given. He could win a few championships. He could win 10 championships but unless the other superstar and perennial all-star on his team vanish, then Lebron’s place among the true greats is cemented at least a notch lower.

Championships aren’t the measure of a man.

Related: NBA Playoffs – Where Legends Are Made

Lebron James doesn’t understand a lot of things. He didn’t understand how many people he had hurt leaving the only team he ever knew the way that he did. Lebron cannot comprehend that winning some championships won’t right all his wrongs. He didn’t understand that joining forces was the worst possible decision he could make.

It’s not just his now humpty dumpty public image that made the decision so poor. He has yet to realize that, given his talent level, taking the responsibility to win championships on his own back is the most important quality a superstar can have.

Michael Jordan had Scottie Pippen. Scottie Pippen says Lebron James is better than Michael Jordan. Scottie Pippen has trouble seeing, you know, with his green eyes and all.

Scottie Pippen didn’t get as much press, maybe less than he deserved, but there’s a reason for that. He was a bonafide second fiddle, Michael Jordan’s second fiddle. Lebron James can also be a second fiddle in his own right, depending on the night.

A guy can’t be a second fiddle on a semi-regular basis and still be considered one of the all-time greats. It doesn’t work that way. He can be one of the great talents of all-time but not one of the all-time greats.

Lebron’s championship mentality was questioned when he first became “His Quitness” against the Boston Celtics in game 5 last season. James’ lack of a championship mentality became clear after the decision. It’s crystal clear now.

Where would Lebron James be without Chris Bosh averaging over 23 points a game against the Chicago Bulls or Dwyane Wade pouring in 28.4 a game in this year’s finals?

Related: Miami is Wade Country

The passiveness Lebron has been content to play with in these NBA Finals is consistent with his mentality. His passiveness told him to wave the white flag and decide that he wanted to take the easy way out. If Lebron James cared at all about his legacy, he should never have bothered to start singing “I get by with a little help from my friends.”

Lebron thinks he can prove the critics wrong by winning championships. However, each year that Lebron plays will be one more year that he didn’t win a championship, a real championship.

If Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire want to team up it won’t be the same. They aren’t going to be judged like Lebron James. They don’t have the Jordan comparisons flying at them from every angle. I don’t remember any of them proclaiming themselves to be the king or get “CHOSEN1” tattooed across their back. A championship for those guys wouldn’t have an asterisk. It would be legit.

I always thought that a King was a person who leads, not a person who follows. You would think that a chosen one wouldn’t give in so easily when the road gets a little bumpy.

Giving up his number wasn’t a gesture out of respect for Michael Jordan. It was Lebron trying to stop the comparisons but it ended up being a metaphor for his legacy. By going to Miami he gave up any chance he still had left at reaching his ultimate goal and his number went along with it. He tried to be Michael Jordan but fell short. So he gave it up.

No one will ever know what Lebron James was capable of. Who knows if he had 6 championships in him all by himself. Maybe he would have been the greatest of all-time. We can always speculate but it won’t give us the answer.

It’s why any and every championship that Lebron James ever wins should have an asterisk beside it. Like Barry Bonds, Mark Mcgwire and Sammy Sosa, we will never know what could have been.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. Also, follow me on twitter @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favour.

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Dirk Nowitzki Hasn’t Been Good Enough

The Mavericks might as well surrender if Dirk Nowitzki can't get it going

Dirk Nowitzki is cementing his legacy in the 2011 playoffs. There’s no denying that. I wrote about it last week. He brought his Mavericks back with 9 straight points in the final 2:43 of the 4th quarter to cap off a stunning 22-5 run, which included the game-winning lay-up with 3.6 seconds left on the clock.

It’s the kind of stuff that happens to legends. No big deal.

Related: NBA Playoffs – Where Legends Are Made

Still, the run that saved Dallas’ championship hopes is overshadowing the fact that Dirk Nowitzki has to play better. Dallas is awful lucky to be going home tied 1-1. Other than the final 2:43 of game 2, Dirk Nowitzki has been rather ordinary. The Miami defence has done more than its part to shut him down.

Nowitzki has averaged 25.5 points a game in the finals but has done it shooting well below the 50% plateau.

Bosh was terrible, Lebron missed clutch shots, and the bench went back to being invisible. Almost everything fell into place for the Mavericks in game 2 yet they were only able to squeak out an unthinkable comeback victory.

The Dallas Mavericks don’t have a roster to make-up for a less than outstanding Dirk Nowitzki. Jason Terry played about as well as he can with Lebron guarding him and they are squeezing virtually every ounce of juice left out of 33-year-old Shawn Marion’s size mismatches.

Dirk Nowitzki needs to play as well as Michael Jordan did in the second half against the Monstars. There is no other alternative. Miami will not give up another lead like that. If Dirk continues to score at this pace the series will be over before you can say “Nowringski.”

It’s surprising that the Mavericks have been able to keep pace at all with Nowitzki playing in this manner. That 4th quarter extra gear that the Heat possess but forgot about in the last 7 minutes of game 2 is a major difference between these two teams. Although the gave the illusion that they have a similar gear, game 2 should not cloud our judgement. The reality is that only one man on the Mavericks who can reach the clutch to shift into that extra special gear.

That man shifted into overdrive late in the 4th quarter when it was just about too late. That can’t happen again. Nowitzki has to be in that gear for 40 minutes, not 2:43.

The Mavericks by themselves don’t have the ability to pull away from the Heat. It will only come from Dirk Nowitzki. The heat have been toying with them, holding out for their opportunity to thrown the hammer down. It’s a cat and mouse game but the Mavericks don’t get to be the cat. On Thursday night, the cat took a 7 minute nap.

A brief mental let down from an inexperienced and immature team has kept the Mavericks in this series. From here on in though, an out of this world Dirk Nowitzki will be the only thing keeping the Mavericks from another disappointing summer.

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NBA Playoffs – Where Legends Are Made

Muhammad Ali once said “Champions aren’t made in the gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them — a desire, a dream, a vision.”

Dirk Nowitzki and, as hard as it is for me to say it, Lebron James are proving themselves to be champions.

Dirk Nowitzki though has carried the weight of the world on his own shoulders year in and year out trying to get his Dallas Mavericks a championship. That weight will stay with him until he gets that ring to put on his finger but no matter what happens Dirk is finally receiving the accolades that he deserves.

This isn’t your everyday run-of-the-mill NBA star. Not to say that guys like Jordan, Magic, Bird and Kobe are. However, Dirk Nowitzki is a once in a lifetime player. Not once in an era or generation but lifetime.

We have almost taken Dirk for granted throughout his career. This is in large part because of his inability to win the big one. No one is taking him for granted anymore. What the big German is showing the world right now in these NBA playoffs is something to tell the grandchildren. He is moving towards legendary status.

The ridiculous shots are one thing. The ridiculous shots under the immense pressure that Nowitzki carries is quite another.

When the Mavericks needed him most, Nowitzki has done what all legends do. Against Oklahoma City he shot an incredible 56% from the field while missing only 2 free throws in 61 attempts. Oh yeah, 2 of those free throw makes came in game 4 to tie the game with 6.4 seconds left in regulation. Did I mention that he swished them both?

Regular season dominance means greatness but post-season dominance creates a legend.

I can say with an immense amount of confidence that there won’t be another player that can do the special things that Dirk Nowitzki does 7 feet off of the ground. He’s not considered one of the top 10 best players of all-time but his truly unique abilities are 1 in 7 billion special. Those 1 legged rainbow jumpers may get all the attention but it is just a microscopic sample of the extraordinary things Dirk does.

This is not coming from the euphoric passion of riding the Dirk Nowitzki 2011 playoff MVP bandwagon. This is popping the cork of that bottle of champagne that has been shaking for the last decade.

If anyone deserves a ring it’s Dirk Nowitzki. He doesn’t need it though and there is a good chance that he won’t get one against his likely opponents, the Miami Heat.

If the Mavericks come up short it won’t be Dirk’s fault and I think he has established that. Like many big market sports, basketball is a team one and playoff underachieving has been a theme among Dirk Nowitzki led Maverick teams.

Should that mean anything for a guy who has averaged 3.0 points a game better in his entire playoff career than his regular season career? Should playoff underachieving mean anything for someone who hasn’t had a legitimate center to clog the lane until his 13th season in the NBA?

For one reason, Dan Marino’s achievements are still belittled to this day. It’s unfair that Marino is punished for something that was out of his control to such a large extent.

Championship or not, Dirk Nowitzki should be considered a legend in his own right. It is wrong that people have considered him a failure, to a certain degree, simply because he lacks the infamous ring.

Lebron James is showing signs that he is clutch like a champion. However, unlike Dirk, his legendary status will have an extended stay in purgatory while the basketball Gods attempt to figure out what could have been for the self-proclaimed King.

Unlike Lebron, Dirk Nowitzki didn’t have to sell his soul for a championship and in the end that will make all the difference.

Related: Miami Heat Get the Easy Route

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Hierarchy Established?

It may have taken 7 games but it looks as though Robin, in Oklahoma City’s very own Batman and Robin combination, has finally realized his place.

For some odd reason, the mentality of Kobe Bryant, Terrell Owens and Randy Moss have rolled into one man’s brain. Highlighted by a triple overtime win against the Grizzlies in game 4, it was apparent that Russell Westbrook’s ego had expanded as large as Jared before he got on Subway.

Even though the Thunder won game 4 and Westbrook scored 40, the alarm bells were ringing loud. Time after time, Westbrook felt it was his duty to play the isolation game while Batman played spectator. He took 33 shots compared to Durant’s 20, while Durant still poured in a very efficient 35 points.

Throughout the year, Westbrook has played as if he has the talent and burden Derrick Rose possesses. This has been a problem for Oklahoma but the bright lights of the NBA playoffs have magnified the situation. Westbrook had to change. Prior to game 7, Westbrook had taken 134 shots compared to Durant’s 105. That just ain’t right.

In game 7, Westbrook took 12 shots compared to Durant’s 25. Well that’s more like it.

Thunder fans better hope that this is a sign of things to come in the Western Conference Finals.

Westbrook is one of the most explosive players in the NBA but he is not one of the best. It baffles me that playing beside the league’s leading scorer hasn’t kept that massive ego from swelling. Obviously no one else in the Thunder organization has been able to keep his ego in check either and it almost cost them an early exit.

It doesn’t matter if Westbrook figured this one out on his own. All that matters is that he changed. He was able to resign himself to the fact that he is Robin and that Robin is the sidekick.

Kevin Durant showed us all that he has the heart of a champion but he couldn’t have done it without his sidekick doing his job. Westbrook had 14 assists and became one of only a select few NBA players to have put up a triple-double in a game 7.

Putting all of this on Westbrook might not completely fair because Durant has to be more assertive. Kevin Durant is the boss and Westbrook needs to know that.

Coming up as clutch as he did had to show Russell Westbrook whose team it really is.

Russell Westbrook is becoming one of the NBA’s premiere point guards but he will always be second fiddle as long as Kevin Durant is around.

Game 7 cannot be an anomaly for the Thunder. It has to become a recurring theme not only for the immediate prospects of the franchise but also for the future. It’s scary to think that Durant and Westbrook are both 22. However, the Thunder are not nearly as scary if Westbrook has any intentions of continuing his campaign to be top dog.

We all know that Batman and Robin can be a lethal team but if Robin wants to be Batman then the whole dynamic is thrown out the window. If the Oklahoma City Thunder want the future to be now, Russell Westbrook needs to decide which character he wants to play.

Hopefully he knows that there is only 1 choice.

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Miami Heat Get the Easy Route

Maybe the road is as easy as they thought it would be

The big 3 took the low road to winning a championship. Public reaction to Lebron’s dreadful 1 hour decision special could have been mistaken for the King selling his soul to the devil for a championship.

The highway to hell looks pretty good right about now.

Prior to the beginning of the playoffs it was almost inconceivable that the Miami Heat could be staring at a title after two rounds without Kobe Bryant and the Lakers in their way. The Lakers were supposed to be the final obstacle but an inevitable meeting with the Boston Celtics meant that the team built to win 5 championships might not even get out of the second round.

Screw logic.

The Heat ousted a Celtic team that probably needed a M.A.S.H unit on site more than anything else. L.A. was swept in convincing fashion by a Maverick squad desperate to remove the dreaded choke label that has surrounded the Dirk Nowitzki era.

It wasn’t unimaginable in any sense to see the Heat overcome the Celtics. However, taking down a Boston team that has been able to turn their game on with the flip of a switch was undeniably impressive.

The Heat are now the favourites to win the 2011 NBA championship and there isn’t any reasonable logic that should suggest otherwise. Everyone knows their two biggest hurdles have been overcome, with a little help from the Dallas Mavericks.

Due to a bit of an Oprah mishap, the Heat and Bulls are forced to start their series a day earlier than expected at the United Centre on Sunday. Wait, the Chicago Bulls?

Oh yeah, the number 1 seed out of the Eastern conference.

My personal favourite writer, Jason Whitlock, recently wrote a column on FoxSports saying that the Heat are no match for the Bulls. It may be plausible but it sounds like Mr. Whitlock just wanted to turn some heads and add some extra page views for Fox’s website.

He says that “the popular narrative is the Bulls look terrible, particularly on offense, against an IQ-challenged Atlanta squad.”

Really? I think the story goes more along the lines of a number 1 seeded team struggling against a 37-win Pacer team absent of any serious firepower. The Bulls are a one man show. Carlos Boozer has been a sorry excuse for a sidekick and the absence of consistency on his part isn’t going to change under the bright lights of the Conference Finals.

The emotional high of overcoming the Celtics is nothing like the Jets advancing over New England contrary to what Whitlock attempts to point out. The Jets weren’t nearly as good a team in relative terms compared to the Heat. It’s as simple as that.

Related: Miami is Wade Country

Miami is clicking as a team and the fact that the wins came easier because of the dislocated elbow of Rondo and lack of a healthy Shaquille O’Neal shouldn’t overshadow the evidence right in front of us. More importantly, the Heat have now proved that they can win meaningful and challenging playoff games.

The popular narrative coming from the Heat players is that the 3 losses to the Bulls during the regular season don’t indicate anything. They’re saying that this is a different Heat team that we are seeing.

As much as I hate clichés, they’re exactly right. Despite the brutal play of supporting cast members like Bibby and Miller, the Heat have found a rotation that works. Starting Joel Anthony at centre instead of Big Z has injected some real life into the front court.

Rose has shot 42% from the field and a sad 25% from beyond the arc in the playoffs. If Derrick Rose is off for the Bulls it’s game over. That’s not the case for the Miami Heat.

The Heat have been blessed with a ridiculously straightforward path to a championship compared to what they could have faced. It was supposed to get harder, not easier.

It’s almost as if we are handing the Heat a championship on a silver platter. No one is doing that. Not yet. Winning a championship is never easy and I’m sure the Heat have learned that by now.

Any of the 4 other remaining teams in the playoffs can and most likely will give the Heat trouble. It’s just not the magnitude of trouble that we expected.

If the regular season has told us anything, it’s that we should have believed a lot of what we saw. There are no dominant teams and seeing last year’s NBA finalists knocked out of the second round clarified that.

Anyone would be a fool not to believe that the Miami Heat are the team to beat. Two pre-season favourites are gone and the Heat have suddenly transformed from the bunch who took the low road to the team with the easy road.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. Also, follow me on twitter @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favour.

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