(2003-'04) That's the Guy They're Talking About?
Even in high school people at ESPN and other sportswriters were saying LeBron was gonna be THAT dude. They were calling him the "Next Michael Jordan". Up until this point in my life the only Michael Jordan I knew and had seen played for the Wizards. But I knew about Air Jordan by the way my dad and my uncle talked about him. Old heads said MJ was the greatest of all time. The only vintage MJ I saw were in those NBA Entertainment cassettes my dad kept. But this LeBron guy was the next Michael so I had to pay attention. If you ever read my Greatest Draft Classes blog post you know the draft LeBron came out of was stacked with talent. Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh and Melo came out of the same draft and LeBron James was the best of the bunch.
('04-'06) He's Coming to Town!
We were all witnesses. I looked forward to these games. My Warriors weren't that good at this time (never stopped me from coming to the games anyway) so it was almost a forgone conclusion what the outcome would be, but everyone wanted to see LeBron. He was amazing. He could jump out the gym, no Migos. He could attack the basket and slam it home with authority. He could chase you on a fast break and swat your lay-up from behind. He could get triple-doubles and do it in an exciting way. He was the big show during Christmas games and All-Star games. It was fun to watch him in the playoffs because there was no pressure...yet. Just witnesses.
('06-'07) Coming Soon
This season shouldn't have happened in hindsight and I'll tell you why. The Cavs (just LeBron) finally beat the Pistons and faced the Pistons and faced the San Antonio Spurs in the Finals in 2007. The Cavs basically had LeBron and a couple of role players and were swept in the Finals. What this really did was set the bar high for King James. He made the Finals and it was now time for him to win a ring. It didn't matter if he didn't have the supporting cast necessary cast for the job, it was time for him to earn his MJ comparison. We were no longer witnesses; we were judges.
('07-2010) Kobe or LeBron?
That was the question. Before LeBron could tackle the greatest basketball player of all time he had to dethrone the current king of the NBA, Kobe Bryant. If you asked people who was better between the two you'd get mixed responses. Laker fans said Kobe no matter what. (And they foolishly still do.) But for everyone else it was kind of a toss up, but the hardware went to Kobe. I would make the case for King James, 70% because I hated Kobe and the Lakers and 30% because I sincerely felt LeBron had a more complete game. During this period Kobe went for 61 points in Madison Square Garden which LeBron followed up with a 50 point triple double in the same building. In '08 Kobe was MVP and returned to the Finals where the Lakers lost to the Boston Celtics. The following two years LeBron was MVP but failed to make the Finals. Kobe on the other hand won two more rings. We never got the Kobe/LeBron matchup we wanted, but the bigger issue was LeBron still had no rings, no real supporting cast (fat/old Shaq doesn't count), no respectable coach and to top it all off his teammate Delonte West was fucking his mother. (Maybe?) We all had our eyes on him. He was at a crossroads.
In case you don't know how this infamous event played out here's a quick recap. LeBron was an unrestricted free agent. He could stay in Cleveland and be a hero. He could go to a big city like New York or Miami. Wherever he went he was going to be with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. Instead of just signing with a team and being done with it, LeBron decided to hold a one hour special called "The Decision" where he told the world he was, and I quote, "Taking my talents to South Beach." That just rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, especially Cavs fans. People in Cleveland burned his jerseys. Suddenly the player who could do anything had lots of holes in his game. He had no reliable shot. He didn't have the killer instinct to win him a title. In crunch time he went cold. I found myself making a case for Kobe over James out of spite. (That's when you know you've fucked up.) I referred to the Heat as D-Wade's team. So when the Heat made the finals against the Dallas Maverick I relished in the fact that King James floundered and Miami lost. We were no longer judging him; we were scrutinizing him. Some were just hating him.
('11-'12) About Damn Time
('12- '14) KD or LeBron?
Kevin Durant is now what LeBron was years ago. Kevin Durant is chasing the rings LeBron has. LeBron is trying to build on his dynasty. Since they met in the Finals here's what's happened: LeBron unanimously won the MVP race in 2013 and led the Heat back to the Finals. Kevin Durant looked poised to meet him there but and injury to Russell Westbrook sent the Thunder home early in the Conference Semi-Finals. Meanwhile King James faced the San Antonio Spurs and thanks to LeBron's headband falling off and a timely clutch three pointer from Ray Allen the Heat won in 7. This year Kevin Durant played the best basketball of his career and won the MVP award and wrote a tear jerking speech. The Heat breezed by a really weak Eastern Conference and made it to the finals for a fourth straight time. The Thunder faced a really tough Western Conference and eventually lost to the Spurs. Hopefully we will one day get to see James and Durant in the Finals again but for now Durant will keep chasing him. LeBron on the other hand doesn't really have anyone to chase that's still in the league. The man he's chasing retired over a decade ago. I love KD, even if Lil B doesn't, but I know James is the best player in the league and will be for a while.
('14-Present) I Guess We Go Home Now
Because of the Heat's inability to not be like Cleveland got themselves demolished in the Finals, LeBron decided to go back to Cleveland. Understand that the Heat looked like a European league team playing against the Dream Team. (Ironic because the Spurs were made up almost entirely of foreign players. Kawhi Leonard got himself Finals MVP, Boris Diaw played like he was 80 lbs lighter and Tim Duncan assured his spot one notch above Kobe Bryant on the All Time Players list. On the other hand Bosh was a non-factor, Dwyane Wade surgically injected his body with old man juice, Mario Chalmers was trying to break the record for the highest negative number reached on the +/- stat sheet and LeBron realized, as we did too, that this era for the Heat and LeBron was over. LeBron opted out of his contract and it seemed like the only two names in consideration were the Cavs and the Heat. Pat Riley delivered a speech at a press conference about how tough it is to win a title and that you have to be a man about it. LeBron kept the world waiting, then finally, the news dropped like a hammer. I remember where I was when they announced Michael Jackson was dead, I remember where I was when LeBron made his first "Decision," and I remember where I was this morning when the announcement was made. I was eating a bowl of Honey Bunches of Oats and the first words out of my mouth were, "WHAT!?!?!" I was shocked, even as I had seen it coming.
A lot of bitter Cavs fans were elated that the hero that abandoned them had come back. Heat fans reacted to the news like the Cavs did 4 years ago, even though they don't actually care about basketball. This was a smart move when you think about it. This gives LeBron a chance to redeem and prove himself in the only place he should even bother trying to do so, his home. It was also a smart basketball decision; the Heat weren't going to be able to bring the Big 3 back and bring in a good supporting cast and the Cavs have young talented players that could be good for the future. By the way, that meme with Kobe with the caption "I never left" is complete bullshit. I remember for a fact that Kobe requested to be traded several times earlier in his career. (Laker fans have selective memory.) I'm not defending LeBron, but y'all be dick-riding Kobe too much. I digress. LeBron's career is almost definitely ending in Cleveland. His career has taken an interesting road so far and it will be exciting to see how it ends.
Follow El Guapo on Twitter @ELGUAPO3 and Instagram @CAPTAINCRUNCHTIME. Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. I'm coming up with more shit over the next few weeks so keep your eyes glued to the computer. Let's enjoy these Finals and stay Guapo out there!