LeBron James answered his critics, myself included, in Games 6 and 7 of the NBA Finals.
|Photo by: Lynne Sladky
James responded to the Heat trailing 3 games to 2 with 32 points in Game 6's come-from-behind overtime win. Then, with the Spurs more-or-less daring him to shoot from the outside, he pumped in 37, including 5-of-10 from behind the arc, and 8-for-8 from the free throw line in Game 7.
All that to go along with 12 boards, playing 45 of a possible 48 minutes of the contest.
LeBron's reputation of not showing up when games are hanging in the balance is no more. He was spectacular down the stretch of both affairs as Miami stared down elimination without flinching. And while James still has a ways to go to match Bill Russell, Michael Jordan, and even Kobe Bryant in terms of rings, this series went a long way in cementing his legacy among the NBA's greatest players.
And what of the Spurs marquee guys? Tony Parker was held in check in Game 7 with only 10 points on 3-of-12 shooting and 4 assists. Danny Green, who wasn't a star when the series started, but became one by setting the record for 3-pointers in an NBA Final during the first five games, disappeared in the last two. He was only 1-of-12 shooting (1-6 from the arc), and finished with a mere 5 points in the finale.
Tim Duncan, San Antonio's biggest star, did his job throughout the series. A model of consistency to the very end, the 16-year veteran poured in 24 points and pulled down 12 rebounds in the deciding game. As for Manu Ginobili, he rediscovered his scoring touch in Game 7, but committed two huge turnovers in the final minutes that kept the Spurs from having a chance at any last-second heroics.
But the story of this series, and especially the two elimination games, was LeBron James. He proved, hopefully once and for all to critics like me, that he can play big during clutch moments. I doubt that this will be LeBron's last ring, so I may have to start calling him LeChamp.
Boy, that leaves a bad taste in my mouth. And I'm sure that's just the way he likes it for his critics.