As LeBron James and the Miami Heat came into this rematch with the San Antonio Spurs, it was clear that the 2014 NBA Finals would be a turning point in the ongoing conversation of legacy, especially James’ legacy. But after the “cramp game”, which it is sure to be called for the rest of his career, James has just given doubters more ammo to load up.
Now we can get into the statistical discussion of how James compares to the greats like Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Larry Bird and the list goes on, but that is a whole other topic. What it is best to delve into is how this will be remembered in the pantheon of defining moments of NBA legends.
How the series plays out will determine if James will be remembered as a “three-peat” champion with a bunch of accolades and one of the greatest of all time (if not the greatest when it is all said and done) or the “cramp game”. Now this isn’t the first time he was carried to the bench for cramping issues; the same issue occurred in the 2012 NBA Finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder, but it was in a far less critical point of the game.
But I do believe James’ career will be littered with questions about his mental toughness. The shots at his psyche will continue to be a stain on an otherwise very accomplished career. But for someone who is constantly compared to Jordan and Kobe, he sure doesn’t seem to exemplify the same intestinal fortitude that they have maintained throughout their careers. You can make the excuse that cramps can’t be compared to playing with the flu or walking off the court with a torn Achilles tendon, but can you excuse the meltdown James suffered in the 2011 NBA Finals to the Dallas Mavericks? How do you explain that not one other person in the whole AT&T Center was carried out even though they experienced the same conditions?
There is no explanation for the lack of execution in pressure situations for James other than he is not mentally strong. His legacy is in his own hands now; he has to save this series in order for any doubt to be removed.