LeBron James

When the late Hunter S. Thompson (my favorite writer of all-time) published his first column with the launch of ESPN.com’s new “Page 2″ section, his last sentence was an unfamiliar Latin phrase, “Res Ipsa Loquitor.” I immediately looked it up and learned that it meant, “the thing speaks for itself.” I thought of this phrase as I looked over the boxscore of last night’s 118-90 Miami Heat victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers last night. The margin of victory and LeBron James’ 38 points in 30 minutes — all within the first three quarters — spoke for themselves whether or not you watched the game.

Of course, if you’re reading this, there’s a pretty good chance you did watch the game. If you had the opportunity to watch it and you didn’t, you wouldn’t be a diehard NBA fan and you wouldn’t be here right now, would you? You probably saw Cleveland get off to an adrenaline-fueled early lead that they held until a pair of LeBron free throws tied the game at 17 at the 3:34 mark of the first quarter. Those free throws were part of a 15-0 Miami run that sucked the life out of Quicken Loans Arena, and the ferocious, spiteful heckling of the scorned Cavaliers fans had been reduced to a dull roar.

As the Heat began to pull away in the second quarter, LeBron began cracking jokes with (or perhaps at) the Cavaliers bench while the livid fans behind the bench screamed foul epithets at their former hero. But he did not acknowledge them — he didn’t appear to even notice them. In the third quarter, he exploded for 24 points and staked the Heat to an insurmountable 30-point lead going into the meaningless final quarter. LeBron’s work was done, there would be no vengeance in Cleveland that night.

It would be easy to pretend that last night’s domination doesn’t mean all that much — it’s just one game, the Cavaliers aren’t very good, the Heat continue to beat up on bad teams and lose to good teams, etc. But the same people who want to minimize this game’s importance would be shrieking that LeBron can’t handle real pressure if he had folded on such a big stage. Yes, it’s just one game out of 82 in a long season, but he’s unlikely to face this kind of pressure again until at least the Eastern Conference Finals. He was undeterred by all the negativity thrown at him, brushing it off like so much dirt off his broad shoulders.

I feel like last night was a sort of turning point for LeBron James in terms of how he deals with adversity. I believe that the great ones in sport either thrive off negativity and doubt — like Michael Jordan — or they become oblivious to it — like Kobe Bryant. LeBron appears to have learned how to achieve that Kobe-like state of mind. He now has that right combination of self-confidence and emotional armor to achieve greatness regardless of the circumstances. LeBron can just do LeBron, and it doesn’t matter what you or I think about it.

From the moment LeBron announced his nationally televised decision to “take his talents to South Beach” on July 8, millions of sports fans have been rooting for him to fail. There should be no question that this was difficult for him to deal with for a while — how could it not be? Last night, he acted out a definitive response to all the negative energy we’ve been sending his way: “I won’t listen to all you haters anymore. And if I fail, it will not be because you wanted me to.”

Keep throwing rocks at King James’ self-appointed throne if it quells your fear and fuels your loathing. I don’t think he feels it anymore.

Comments (18)

  1. Wow…great article.

  2. I’m glad LeBron could join the storied company of some 25 teams that will beat Cleveland this season

  3. I would tend to agree with you. I’m not going all in on this until LeBron dominates in a hostile cauldron against a really good team, but last night he did what a lot of people (myself included) questioned his ability to do- use his ridiculous talent to dish out an unholy ass-whipping in a genuinely hostile environment.

    Good stuff, Scott.

  4. Great read.
    I wished he do this against the elite NBA teams but it was still fun to see him basically tell Cleveland to “kiss my el asso”

  5. What is the meaning of the hand signs the Heat players are making in that picture? Is it a “shutting the crowd up” type gesture?

  6. @Jordan: I didn’t notice the hand signals until you pointed it out, but I think your guess is probably right. Good eye.

    @Daniel: It’s looking more and more like LeBron and your bro could face off in the Finals and you know Ron’s going to get that defensive assignment. Regardless, the Christmas faceoff should be epic.

  7. With regards to the ‘shut up’ motion, I’m pretty sure the Heat have been doing that all season…pretty sure I read it on someone’s blog on the Score (maybe even the Buzz blog)…it might have been media-directed….

  8. I just assumed they were dancing the horah.

  9. The hand gesture in the photo if im not mistaken is the new signal for hitting a three. The whole Heat team has been encouraged to make this gesture as a way of team building. Clearly Bosh and Z don’t care too much.

  10. Nice piece however, lets not get carried away, they are still under. 500 verses good teams and i wouldn’t call beating up the lowly Cavs as a turning point in his career.

  11. Great article, well said and I 100% agree, and this is coming from a Lebron-hater.

    @Jordan I believe he’s rubbing his fingers to signal “money” after the made shot.

  12. I feel compelled to comment. Your article was well written and a good read, but I have to disagree. Having been born and raised here in Cleveland, I saw a different story last night. I saw the deer-in-headlights look reminiscent of most of our playoff games during warm-ups and at the start of the game. Then it all changed and I think it was the Cavs fault.

    This was his home for 7 years. Essentially LeBron was playing a home game last night. He even admitted that he knows that floor. All he needed to do was get past the emotional piece and he could settle in and play like he’s known how to play there for years. On top of that, straight statistics tell you he was playing a team that increased his odds of putting on a star performance. Pregame and in the beginning of the game, LeBron was behaving like the child that he is and searching for that tiny bit of reassurance. He got it when our team and bench didn’t just shut him down and refuse to acknowledge him. That was just enough to reassure him that he still had friends so he coul feed off that and start his show.

    If our team, or our coach, would’ve treated him as the enemy (which they should have for the length of the game – you can be friends and bust chops AFTER) and told him to get back to his side of the court and stay there, I think we would’ve seen a different game by LeBron.

    I wouldn’t put too much faith in the fact that LeBron has grown and can now handle it. Been there, done that too many times. We’ll see when it counts but my bet is he still folds like a house of cards when it matters most.

    Thanks for the article.

  13. Hm, I thought that’s a sign for good ‘shooting touch’ after a made three (“I feel it in my fingers, I feel it in my soul”-kinda thing).

    Nice article, but the pressure he might have felt at the beginning of the game just disappeared to quickly to tell if that was a turning point. His jumpers were going down from the start and the Cavs D was just too bad. There was not much adversity in the game itself for him to handle.

  14. the hand gesture is something between the heat players when they drain a 3

    kind of like the goosie

  15. you are taking one game way out of proportion. he will still choke when it matters. this is no sign.

  16. The CLE-MIA game shows how LeBron will deal with the fans?

    Has LeBron ever had to “deal” with anyone? He knows folks hate him (for a myriad of reasons I suppose we could discuss ad nauseum), but LeBron exists in LeBron World. The only way LeBron has ever been able to deal with anything in on the 94-foot hardwood. Off the floor, he’s mystified, baffled by what folks not bron extraordinarily gifted at something. How does LeBron know what being a consumer is like when he’s always been product?

    LeBron’s fault for not being interested in the real world? The NBA’s for seeing him only as a way to promote the league (read: make money)? The fans fault for idolizing him and providing our mediocrity with a chance to rub up against excellence, then booing him when he does not live up to our expectations? Who’s fault is it?

    On some level, it must have been comfortable for him to go on the floor in Cleveland. Boo away. Or cheer. He’s clearly never been all that interested in what “regular folks” think anyway, expect as potential consumers of his product. He didn’t have to do an interview, or shoot an ad, or do all the PR things to try to prove he has a soul on Tueday night. He just got to go play basketball. Against a lottery-bound team. Must have been the happiest moment he had in a while. He got to answer his harshest critics with his game.

    The worst part of the CLE-MIA game, for those who love the game, was the effortless way LeBron scored and scored and scored. As if he could do this every night if he cared to. But he doesn’t care to. And that’s what made The Statement the same as The Decision: he’ll put out the effort and carry a team on his back when he wants to – he just doesn’t want to. He’s enormously blessed with basketball acumen, better at anything you or I will be at anything, and he treats it offhandedly. Like when Axl Rose was dating/beating Stephanie Seymour. He doesn’t get what he has. And that’s the legacy he’s building.

    Final thought: if LeBron and Kobe Bryant were locked in the MMA octagon, and were told that the winner gets a championship ring (LBJ his first, Kobe his fifth), who wins?

  17. To those still asking about the hand signs, it’s not “shut up” nor a simple sign for a made three ball. The Heat explained it earlier this season as “Let our talents do the talking”. Something to that effect to douse all the talk and negative hoopla about the team. Hope that helps.

  18. [...] you were convinced that Heatley’s return to Ottawa was Canada’s answer to the return of some basketball player to Cleveland on the same night. In the end, the similarities between the two homecomings were remarkable. In both cases, the crowd [...]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *