In the wake of LeBron James’ 45-point, 15-rebound, five-assist demolition of the Celtics on the road with the Heat’s season on the line, one of the many reactions to the downright regal performance stood out in particular to me. It came from Ball Don’t Lie’s Dan Devine. Here’s what he said:
Remember how so many dudes said, “We’re going to learn a lot about LeBron in Game 6?” I wonder how many are going to write it like that.
— Dan Devine (@YourManDevine) June 8, 2012
It’s true, of course. No sooner had the game – again, a game in which the Heat needed LeBron to come up big to begin with, needed him to come up bigger because the rest of his team shot a combined 18-for-50 – ended than the professional LeBron skeptics could say, “Well, the real test will be Game 7.” There will always be way to say LeBron hasn’t proven anything yet. If LeBron does lead the Heat to a win in Game 7 on Saturday night, then he’d better do it all over again in the Finals. And if the Heat do win the title and LeBron is Finals MVP, well, let’s see him do it five more times like Jordan did. And if he does all that but never hits a game-winning buzzer-beater…
You get the idea. But looking at what Devine said, what I really honed in on was that “we’re going to learn a lot” part. Naysayers might tell you we didn’t really learn anything about LeBron last night. And I eventually realized: they’re right. Just not for the reasons they think. We really didn’t learn anything about LeBron last night, but it’s not because he needs to keep successively proving himself on bigger and bigger stages – it’s because we already know everything about him we need to know.
Consider: last night, LeBron put up a double-double with 40-plus points in a must-win game on the road. Is it the first time he’s done that? Hell, it’s not even the first time he’s done that these playoffs. Remember the 40/18/9 game against Indiana? Wasn’t an elimination game, but it would have put the Heat down 3-1. They had to have it, and LeBron delivered. And speaking of delivering in the playoffs, check out this list of games. Last night’s LeBron stat line, while absurd, was nothing we didn’t know he was capable of.
And that’s the most important point with LeBron. He’s capable not only of producing a game like this, but producing them at a rate that almost every other player in history of basketball couldn’t dream of. He is an outrageously great basketball player who is sometimes more outrageously great than usual. He’s so good that he puts up 30 and 13 and people wonder what’s wrong. Last night was only further confirmation of that greatness.
Would it be nice to see LeBron come up big in Game 7, impose his will on an NBA Finals, and yes, be more assertive near the end of close games? From the perspective of a fan wanting to see greatness, of course. But even in the unlikely event that none of those things never happen, LeBron will still wind up with one of the best careers of anyone who’s ever played. While we’ve been busy placing artificial barriers in the way of LeBron truly “proving himself,” he’s proved himself again and again – enough that there’s not much left to learn about just how good he really is. Maybe after last night, that will finally sink in – but somehow, I doubt it.
Getty photo, by Jim Rogash