NBCSports – LeBron James joined Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami promising multiple championships. But the Heat lost in the 2011 NBA Finals then lost three straight to trail the Celtics 3-2 in the 2012 Eastern Conference finals. LeBron was labeled a choker who didn’t deliver in the clutch.
Then, he turned in a performance for the ages – 45 points, 15 rebounds and five assists in a victory in Boston.
How did LeBron summon that level of focus and execution?
LeBron on Instagram Live:
My mentality was, if we lose, Pat Riley may break us all up. And I didn’t want that. It might be the quickest breakup in basketball history. And not only might they break it all up, my legacy is going to take a huge, huge hit if I don’t go out here and perform at an all-time high. Win, lose or draw, I had to be focused. I had to lock in and lead us to victory. Didn’t know if it was going to happen that way, but that was my mindset.
Despite an unprecedented run of dominance in Boston across multiple sports over the past 20 years, it’s the bitter defeats that stick with me most. I vividly remember sitting at my future father-in-law’s house in 2012 watching LeBron James rip my heart out as he went God Mode for 45 and 15 in Game 6. Just an absolutely unbelievable, singlehanded display of dominance. And it knocked out the already exhausted legs of the aging, proud, veteran laden 2012 Celtics. I’ve written about how that Celtics squads was one of my all-time favorite Boston teams many times.
Led by three Hall of Famers in Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen, but all three were well past their primes. This was a full four years after the Celtics won Banner 17. This wasn’t the 2008 Celtics, this was the Grit and Balls Celtics.
KG was 36, Ray was 36, and Pierce was 34-years-old at this point so this was going to be their last run at a chip and everybody knew it. It’s impressive they even got that far after winning just 39 games in the regular season that year.
People forget the C’s actually went down 0-2 in this series before ripping off 3 straight wins and putting LeBron on the ropes, which was oh so sweet at the time. KG and the Celtics broke LeBron two years before and legitimately bullied him so bad he left Cleveland to team up with his super friends. After the most ridiculous display in pro sports history (AKA the pre-season dynasty predicting rock concert)
LeBron and co. proceeded to get worked by Dirk and the Mavs in the 2011 Finals.
0 for 1.
So if the Heat lost yet again in Year 2, with LeBron, D-Wade, and Chris Bosh all on massive contracts, I very easily could have seen Pat Riley saying F this whole operation. Would that have been an overreaction? Yea sure, but this is Pat Riley we’re talking about not Brad Stevens.
To think we were THIS close to imploding that mini-dynasty less than 24 months into its inception like a cheap folding chair. That Game 6 literally gave birth to the LeBron James we know today. It essentially washed away the choker tag as LeBron evolved into the most dominant player in the world that night.
Yes, LeBron swung the sword that decapitated the end of the Celtics’ run and won his first NBA title in the process. But lets not forget the following season, if not for Ray Allen’s dagger 3 in Game 6 of the Finals the Heat lose to the Spurs in 2012.
I remember watching this game at T’s Pub on that crappy projector screen, turning to Big Z and saying “Well Ray just won the Finals for LeBron.” They still had to go to OT just to win Game 6 and then win Game 7 on top of that, but the hardest job was already done by Jesus Shuttlesworth.
The Heat then lost to the Spurs in 2013 too. That would have made the Heat 1/4 in the Finals with the Super Team, which would have made LeBron an ugly 1/5 in his career up to that point. Add that with losing 3 out of 4 to the Warriors in Cleveland and LeBron could easily be 2/9 in the Finals. So a couple of butterfly wing flaps one way or the other and LeBron could have left Miami with just one or even zero championships. Imagine that?
Now I love watching LeBron play, I understand I am witnessing one of the greatest to ever play the game, but goddamn was it fun to root against LeBron with KG and Pierce wanting to bury the guy more than anybody every single night.