Friday, June 15, 2012

LeBron James Finally Clutch Is Reason Why Critics Can Hush

Now that he silenced the world and such anarchy is over, it's fair to state the truth. LeBron James is simply clutch. Only the naive believes he didn't have one of his best games in Finals history. Weren't you watching? Because if you weren't a witness, this was the kind of performance his disbelievers and even supporters were waiting for anxiously, and indeed, he delivered in crunch time.

This was James finally revealing his vicious and relentless toughness -- one of the finest LeBronstravaganzas we've ever seen. The night for James was a breakout Finals game -- particularly in the fourth quarter -- leaving his critics in silence and amazingly surprising everyone in full view. The first order of business is to taste glory and win his first ever ring as an NBA player, the only reward that's not visible on his resume to accompany with his individual achievements. James, in all, is getting tired of hearing that he has no championship ring, that he won't ever be the next best thing to Jordan. It's all an insult to him.

While he has heard the typical nonsense from critics and has been harangued by naysayers demeaning him, motivated by the haters and widespread criticism, he delivered on a critical pull-up shot without calling bank shot, and then closed it out with two late free throws. By that time, the Miami Heat had buried Oklahoma City 100-96 to tie the NBA Finals at one game apiece Thursday night, as the series shifts to Miami for three. This was not only good, but also great, a time for James to shut mouths close and prove everyone wrong.

Just when we thought it was safe to describe him as a fourth-quarter finisher, Kevin Durant, a three-time NBA scoring champ, sputtered down the stretch and was limited due to foul trouble, playing with five fouls, as he feared to be an aggressor. But now, in these Finals, it was LeBron with a vital defensive play stopping Durant's potential game-tying shot. With a chance to make it by driving baseline, Durant watched the shot bounce off the rim. He forced Durant to miss on a baseline 10-footer in the final seconds, he contested the shot, and he harassed him, refusing to give him space to capitalize on a game-tying basket. The refs just let them play, and didn't blow the whistle on James, on a no-call that could have gone either way.

Durant, on the other hand, won't take it, but James certainly will. And he took the win. Even after his foolish decision show and premature celebration in Miami, James, an unlikable figure in the NBA, has mastered the role of greatness to some extent, the primary star in South Florida that everyone loves or loathes. Meanwhile, some people, among James' critics, think Durant is a more clutch performer than James. But one can argue that James is widely a better finisher than Durant. Erasing the regretful past times from a self-serving infomercial that permanently damaged his image and credibility, James is rising to the occasion -- hate him or love him -- not once did he quit or disappeared and seemed more confident. Filled with hunger, quenching thirst and pride, he dispelled any doubts that he's not clutch.

Above all, he shot 12 for 12 from the foul line, and from what we've seen, when the going has gotten tougher, James has played his hardest. And so, once again, he has stepped forward, handling all the pressure, dealing with all the scrutiny as the most despised player in basketball, if not all of sports. He's not the same player we saw one year ago, and in truth, he's meaner and tougher, a beast-like creature who can single-handedly lead the Heat to a second title. It's not Dwyane Wade. It's not Chris Bosh. The focal point of these much-anticipated finals happens to be James, after all, even though he's taken some criticism in the past for either being too selfish or too selfless.

This is turning into a series of vindication as James may finally celebrate and raise the first championship trophy by continuing his dominance. Finally, the most visibly polarizing figure in the sport could make a case as the best NBA player, and to some degree, he has laid the claim, only lacking the honorable prize. In recent news, to keep tabs on him, James has had two consecutive 30-point performances in this series alone.

At the end of the day, he's helping his team win, he's coming through in clutch situations and, as a result, he put away the Thunder. Through two games, James has been the man of the show -- and amazingly fun to witness with our very eyes. The fast start set the tone early in this game as the Heat pushed out to an 18-2 lead, scoring on Oklahoma City, who missed 12 of its first 13 shots. The team couldn't overcome a 10-point deficit, moment from moment. And every time the Thunder would cut into the lead, the Heat continued to score and James was unstoppable. It was inexcusable, whether the refs helped the Heat with no-calls or overused their whistles, the way the Thunder played in the first half.

The lack of urgency and struggles from Russell Westbrook, who has a sore left thumb, was a drawback for the Thunder after missing shot after shot. This outing clearly summarized Westbrook's horrible night and the numbers were misleading, for which he missed 16 of his team-high 26 shots to finish with 27 points. But this is one game where James had one vintage moment in the finals. This is one game where he was money in the fourth quarter. The ball eventually made its way to Wade, but he has yet to make noise in the finals. And thanks to LeBron, the Heat not once had to worry about a fourth-quarter collapse, and held on to a victory that they badly wanted in the 2-3-2 format series.

There's no doubt it was the hardest NBA Finals contest of his career -- on the road -- in a hostile territory, where James maneuvered by Thunder defenders with strength and a fierce approach to attack the rim and finish. For once, he wasn't scoreless in the fourth quarter, and his mental attitude spoke volumes, knowing that he is playing with a heavy burden in his role as a primary superstar. Late in the game, the Heat were on the brink of losing a 13-point lead, and every time the Thunder would make a run, James would deliver.

More surprisingly, he was unflappable and composed to handle the roughest time of the game. It's hard to question LeBron's greatness, his ability to step up late in the game when he avoided a heartbreaking collapse, at last in the finals. With James around, it can also be noted that he bailed out his coach Erik Spoelstra, who is well aware of offensive uncertainties, a weakness in which his diagrammed plays tend to unravel at the worst time. But that's when LeBron comes in to save the day, taking over at the end and throttling the opposition into submission.

It's been long overdue, and it's about time that James comes across good fortune in these finals, a testament to his success.

You know what that tells us?

You can't ever underestimate the heart of LeBron James.