By Stephen D. Riley, Special to AFRO
A believable shocker. I don’t think the phrase has been coined but it was the only words I could get off watching LeBron James clinch an eighth-straight Finals appearance in an 87-79 Game 7 win over Boston on Memorial Day Eve. Counting LeBron in for another championship round wasn’t the shocker but analyzing the way he got there and who he came with was the thing that made you blink twice. Cleveland starters like Tristan Thompson, Jeff Green and J.R. Smith wouldn’t even start on worst teams but magically they’re key cogs in the James train. How? One word: LeBron.
It’s a strong chance that Cleveland gets obliterated next round and James departs in the summer in the search for more help but as of right now, we should all take the next few days to marvel at James’ greatness. It’s not the first time that LeBron has taken a hodgepodge Cavaliers group to the bonus round of the NBA playoffs but this might be the most special. Critics call the Eastern Conference a weaker version of its opposite coast counterpart but Boston could be the league’s deepest team next year. Toronto finished this season with the best record in the East and Indiana may have the Association’s most improved player in Victor Oladipo and they all succumbed to LeBron’s greatness.
It might sound homerish but LeBron-lovers have come to realize the continuous championship appearances as title-like accomplishments. James may be the only player in NBA history who gets praised for consistency but pardoned for his biggest failures. Maybe the reason to ooh and oggle is because we know things will come to a screeching halt over the next two weeks but to fully understand this season’s championship play-in was done with absolutely no help.
Going into last summer, the dumbest thing the Cavs brass could’ve done was trade Kyrie Irving, do a complete roster revamp during midseason at the trade deadline and rely on Kevin Love to step up as the always revered LeBron James sidekick. Cleveland did all those dumb things, Love never stepped up and Cleveland still made it back to the Finals because of one word: LeBron.
We never like to say ‘this team only did this because of playerX’ but that’s exactly what just happened. You can legitimately give LeBron all the credit for this makeshift Cleveland group that took down a triplet of East coast teams that were probably all more talented than them. Boston’s clearly the future; Toronto was the best of the conference; and ironically, Indiana gave them the most trouble. But even with a roster full of starters that wouldn’t even sniff heavy minutes on the remaining top three teams as of last week, the Cavs still survived all of that because of one simple thing. LeBron.
We’re currently witnessing true greatness. Even without the amazing array of championship rings.