The NBA is the only league where it is possible to crown the King before any games have been played. Immediately after winning their first championship with the big three last year, the proclamations of talking heads across the basketball world was that the Miami Heat would repeat. Who was going to stand in their way? In LeBron James’ way? Certainly not the San Antonio Spurs.
The Spurs had a strategy in Game 7 of the NBA Finals. Let LeBron be LeBron. And you know what? It killed them.
The Spurs gave LeBron space, daring him to shoot the jump shots so that he would not choose to drive where the Spurs had almost no chance to stop him. The strategy led to five three pointers at a 50% shooting rate and a dagger jump shot in the final minute.
The Spurs learned what the league has been preaching. You can’t stop LeBron. He led the Heat on a 27 game winning streak, grabbed another MVP award and held the team up as the Big One when Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade struggled. In a lot of aspects, he made up for the shortcomings of a team not destined for a title.
To put this season into words, “The 2013 NBA Season was LeBron James triumphing over the NBA’s 30 teams (including his own) to win a championship.” This statement holds up even though we know every superstar needs help, including Michael Jordan. However, at the height of his game, does anyone believe James couldn’t have won this championship with a slightly more balanced roster in Cleveland? His departure from the Cleveland Cavaliers is still the whole reason he is not adored across the NBA to begin with.
The best thing about sports is the unpredictability. People can talk about records, champions, superstars all they want, but if everyone knew the outcome of every game, every season, it would become less compelling. If LeBron James truly becomes an automatic win machine, no doubt, then why would people tune in?
The NBA has made its likeness out of LeBron James. Its stock rises and falls on the back of his stardom, and to lesser degrees the success of the Kevin Durants and Kobe Bryants. This is all the league has left in a system which appears inherently unfair to most franchises. The NBA lacks the parity of the three other major leagues. They need LeBron James… They also need the San Antonio Spurs.
If the Heat managed to glide through the NBA playoffs and not struggle against the Indiana Pacers or San Antonio Spurs, this postseason would have failed. What incentive do basketball fans have to tune in to the inevitable in James? The Spurs pushed him to the brink and should have won. They made this Finals compelling along with the passive nature of LeBron at times.
And so begins the cries for the “Big Three Three-peat.” King James and the two jesters. Does anyone think they’re invincible? Is this trilogy still worth watching?
Perhaps this years Spurs against this years vulnerable Heat was the best chance the NBA had for parity?