Is it ridiculous to proclaim LeBron’s 2015 postseason as one of his most impressive feats? Sure, we’re only in the early stages of the Conference Finals and he certainly isn’t setting the world on fire statistically (4.5 TOs/game; is posting his lowest playoff PER ever) but his motivation, unshakable confidence and late-game execution (5th game-winning shot of his playoff career in Game 4 at Chicago) are all top-notch right now.
We get it, the Eastern Conference sucks. The “powerhouse” Chicago Bulls had great talent but lacked enough killer instinct to triumph over their bitter rival. That said, how is LeBron able to uplift a hobbled, inexperienced team through the playoffs without many blips in the road? It’s ALL confidence. And it’s contagious around this time of year.
If the Cavs somehow win the title, let’s face it, the narratives would be endless. “LeBron James, the best overall talent in NBA history, leads a misfit bunch to glory.” The Cavs are not only going toe-to-toe with the top-seeded Atlanta Hawks sans Kevin Love and a healthy Kyrie Irving (did not finish Game 1), they are now favored to win the series after DeMarre Carroll’s knee injury (questionable for Game 2).
In Game 1, LeBron was primarily defended by Paul Millsap, which has DISASTER written all over it. Though Millsap played tough defense, LeBron’s unmatched combination of speed, power and court vision gives him too much room to create for others, his favorite aspect of the game.
The ability to inspire his teammates is, and always has been, his main focus. Sure, we cannot exactly correlate all of JR Smith’s 28 points & 8 Game 1 threes to solely his “inspiration” playing with LeBron but we can say that his irrationally confident, contested shots are welcomed by The King.
Continuing to use Smith as an example, LeBron was very supportive when the Cavs traded for him at the deadline. “Get him here, and I’ll take care of it,” LeBron said. Helping to reign in a mercurial player like JR is the ultimate example of his brilliance as a basketball player. Look no further on Cleveland’s roster for more cases…James Jones is still a relevant role player, Iman Shumpert has transformed into a knockdown shooter, Matthew Dellavedova hounded Derrick Rose and made timely plays in Round 2, and Tristan Thompson looks like he will be a near max guy in free agency this summer.
While LeBron isn’t responsible for everything, the confidence gained by “secondary” players is giving the short handed Cavs enough ammunition to compete for the title.
Til the day Father Time wears him down, we’ll stay true to the notion that LeBron can be inserted onto ANY current roster and instantly make them a playoff team and, possibly, contender. Yes, even the Sixers and Carmelo Anthony-less Knicks.
In 2007, he led an awful team featuring Drew Gooden, Larry Hughes, Daniel “Boobie” Gibson and an aging Zydrunas Ilgauskas to the Finals. This year’s Cavs are more talented but are nowhere near full strength. And that was EIGHT years ago! Isn’t he supposed to show signs of “decline” at some point? Nah.
With their backs against the wall, Cleveland could have easily wilted and waived the white flag. LeBron refuses to let that happen.
Forget the most important Cleveland sports victory of all time, if LeBron is able to defy odds and reach the mountaintop, it might be time to at least reopen the “MJ Discussion” aka the unofficial claim as the best player to ever lace ’em up.