10:40 am Jun. 22, 2012
From the moment LeBron James signed with the Miami Heat in the summer of 2010, or maybe from the moment he entered the league, the rest of the N.B.A. has essentially been wondering what would happen if he ever figured out how to combine his prodigous scoring ability with remarkable passing skills in precisely the amount necessary to win a championship.
They never found out during James' time in Cleveland, or last season, when a Dallas team produced a defensive scheme that frustrated James and ultimately allowed the Mavericks to defeat him.
But James took his game to another level in the conference finals, scoring 45 points in a Game 6 defeat of the Celtics, dominating in Game 7, and then carried that play right through an N.B.A. finals that the Heat won in five games over the Oklahoma City Thunder. The final score in Thursday night's Game 5 was 121-106.
There can be no more doubt about James' ability to dominate when it matters. He put up a triple-double in the clinching game, 26 points, 11 rebounds, 13 assists. The Thunder was supposed to have an edge inside, but James neutralized their rebounding advantage. They were supposed to share the ball better, but James found teammates. This was one of the most talented basketball players ever, at the top of his abilities.
The comparison to Michael Jordan is a natural one. No one has had Jordan's sheer totality of talents until James. They now have both won N.B.A. titles at age 27. And James's Heat appear ready, as Jordan's Bulls were back in 1990-91, to come back and run roughshod over the league all over again.
One big variable is James' surrounding cast. The year that Jordan won, his two most important teammates were Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant. Both were in just their third seasons, Pippen turning into a Hall of Fame caliber player on his own, doing many of the things James does now. Horace Grant was an all star power forward, top notch rebounder and defender. They were both just getting started.
James has, in his two most important teammates, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. Wade is two years older, and showed a fair amount of wear during the playoffs. He's two years older than James, with a lot of mileage on him. Bosh is James' age, but has been injury-prone, missing time in the playoffs during the Boston series.
Without players like Wade and Bosh acting as legitimate weapons, defenses can collapse on James, neutralizing his scoring somewhat, and keeping his passing from serving as the lethal weapon it did in the just-concluded playoffs.
Still, this is what it has come to: With James finally coming into his own, something else will have to give. Otherwise, the N.B.A. could be Miami's league for a long while.
Elsewhere in New York sports:
Part two of the Subway Series commences Friday night, when the Mets host the Yankees at Citi Field. Frank Francisco provided some bulletin-board fodder by calling the Yankees "chickens." The Mets continue to struggle to match even their 2011 attendance figures, despite steep discounts and other gimmicks, along with improved on-field performance.
Mike Lupica thinks the Knicks are doomed for years to come.
Jeremy Lin has a new agent to help him sign a new contract this summer, when he is a restricted free agent.
While the jury reviews testimony, the Times reports that Jerry Sandusky's adopted son offered to testify against him, but the prosecution declined. If Sandusky is acquitted, this decision will be remembered with Marcia Clark's decision to have O.J. try on the bloody glove.