LeBron James has been a bit of a lightning rod throughout his career, especially since The Decision. His character has been questioned (Who leaves their hometown team on national television?) His clutch-ness has been questioned (Why did he pass in the final seconds? Was he afraid to shoot?) And his alpha dog-ness has been questioned (Why did he need a Big Three to win an NBA title?)
But if you’ve watched even a little bit of the NBA Finals thus far, you can’t question James’ character or clutch-ness or alpha dog-ness – or anything else, for that matter. The guy has completely put the Cleveland Cavaliers on his back and played out of his mind, averaging 42.5 points, 12.0 rebounds and 8.5 assists through two overtime games against the best team in the league.
Former NBA veteran Eddie Johnson, like pretty much everyone, has been thoroughly impressed by James in these Finals.
“I enjoy great players,” Johnson said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show, “and I think sometimes we take great players for granted and we try to focus in on their negatives instead of most of their positives. And let’s just face facts: The guy can play. Not only can he play, he elevates his teammates – and his teammates love him. And that’s what we want. That’s what we want to see. He’s paying a price for the decisions he’s made before, and people can’t get over it. But what people need to (do) is pay attention to how one man is controlling a contest – and he’s doing it with a bunch of guys that, quite frankly, the Sacramento Kings could beat if he wasn’t playing. That’s the beauty of what he’s doing, and I think we should enjoy watching him.”
The Cavaliers have found a way to win without Kevin Love. They’ve found a way to win without Kyrie Irving. This wasn’t the Atlanta Hawks they beat in Game 2 on Sunday. It was Golden State. In ORACLE. Where the Warriors were 47-3.
Make that 47-4.
Just where would the Cavaliers be without James?
“They’re a lottery team,” Johnson said. “And look, that is no injustice against the guys that’s on there because they’re good quality basketball players. But in order to win basketball at this level, you got to have leadership. You got to have a star. That’s what they are right now. They are a team that has a leader, but if that leader was not there, there is no way they win more than 15 games.”
Because of James, however, the Cavs have evened the NBA Finals and stolen home-court advantage. Not bad for a team that many expected to get swept, especially after Game 1.
“Quite frankly, they should be up 2-0 in this series,” Johnson said. “They have pretty much dominated the series. It’s kind of funny how that works, isn’t it? I mean, they lost the first game and they lose Kyrie Irving and people think they might not ever win a game. But lo and behold, if you look at the series and take each game for what it is, they’ve dominated the series since the start. They should be up 2-0.”