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by Joel Caris
I remember hating Michael Jordan.
It was during some of his prime years. I had many reasons for hating him. I didn't like the way he was treated like god by the media, I didn't like the way he seemed to get all the calls, and I didn't like his general attitude. Most importantly, though, was that he was beating the Blazers. My Blazers. Without Jordan, they win the championship in 1992. With Jordan? Not so much.
So yeah, it had a personal element in the sense of his beating the Blazers, but it was also about the hype surrounding him, the domination of the media, and the copious amount of attention. I was sick of hearing about him. I was sick of him being worshiped. I thought it was really as much about him being the league's superstar as it was his standing in the way of the Blazers winning a second championship.
However, then LeBron came into the league. He carried the same sort of hype, the same sort of media attention, and some of the same worshiping, though definitely not to the same degree as Jordan, which is understandable considering he hadn't (and still hasn't) actually accomplished anything truly significant. Yet, I liked him. I was interested in him, wanted to see him play, and didn't mind so much all the attention he was getting. In fact, I wanted to see him live up to that attention, to his supposed potential, and just run over the league with dominating play. I didn't want it to happen against the Blazers, but otherwise I wanted to see it.
And I still do to some degree.
Well, it appears that he finally is considering doing that. After years of solid play that never reached the next level, James came out in game three against the Pistons and, perhaps for the first time, really lived up to the hype he brought into the league with him. He was fantastic, amazing, making impossible shots and impressively filling out the stat line. He had a certain Jordanesque air to him as he seemed to decide that he was not going to let his team lose, period. And indeed, they won.
It was fun to see, if for no other reason that LeBron's seeming lack of interest in maximizing his potential. While he has played very solid in the playoffs, there haven't been very many moments when he's truly taken over. But with game three, that statement no longer applies. He took over, no question about it.
You have to wonder, though, why he hasn't done this before. Is it his youth? Is it his competitive spirit? Is it just the situations he's been in up until now? Perhaps this year he finally sees a light at the end of the playoff tunnel and is finally, truly gunning for a ring.
It's tough to say for sure, though. The Cavs won game four, as well, but James was not as dominant. He did, however, have a huge fourth quarter, with thirteen points. That would bode well, with as much emphasis on when he took over as on how many points he scored once he did.
We're lucky, meanwhile, that James is providing some entertainment value to these Eastern Conference Finals, because they're otherwise not very interesting. Over in the West, the Finals there aren't proving all that interesting, either. Not for me, anyway, and that probably has a lot to do with the way the Suns-Spurs series went down.
Going forward, you have to look at James as the biggest potential story. With the series tied and the Pistons, frankly, not playing all that well, Cleveland has an excellent chance of advancing to the NBA Finals. If that happens, I think the Spurs will then beat them like naughty puppies, but there's always that thought of James taking over in game three. If that LeBron starts showing up for every game, rather than just every once in awhile, then the Cavs have a chance at winning a championship. A piss poor chance, granted, but a chance all the same.
The question is if that James continues to show up.
I'm guessing he won't. But I wouldn't mind being proven wrong.