Why LeBron will fail:
James has carried the Cavaliers this far, but too much circumstance points against him going further in the NBA playoffs.
Time catches up with us in different ways, but it still catches up, even to the greats. If you’ve loved the LeBron James Show during these NBA playoffs, or even loved to hate it, get your cheers or jeers in now because it won’t last much longer.
Despite the heroics of Game 7 against the Indiana Pacers and, indeed, that entire electrifying first-round series in which James carried his Cleveland Cavaliers on those titanic shoulders, this is a journey that doesn’t have much further to travel.
Forget about talk of James getting old. Yes, he’s 33, but he’s the player you want on the court in every imaginable situation. The problem is he’s a one-man team who will try to stave off the Eastern Conference’s No. 1-seeded Toronto Raptors.
But that’s not the only reason time will catch up with James. He, and the Cavaliers, have spent far too much of it on the court.
The Raptors, already better, younger, fresher and more technically stocked than the Cavs, got to put their feet up for two extra days ahead of the conference semifinals series that was to begin May 1.
James is capable of extraordinary feats, but this year, the odds were stacked against him to begin with and now they are piled extra high.
History lauds James’ record in the first round of the playoffs, because it is extraordinary. Before the past two weeks, his teams had swept five consecutive firstround series. That level of dominance had the effect of creating momentum, and over the course of his career, the sweeps were always followed by effortless strolls into the conference finals. After winning 4-0 in the first round, James has never stumbled at the next hurdle, going 24-4 in the process.
As the Pacers edged closer and gained confidence behind the inspired play of Victor Oladipo, much was made that James had never lost at this primary stage since he first took part in the playoffs in 2006.
In truth, it was never even close. Never before had he gone into a Game 7 or any kind of elimination scenario at such an early juncture. The only two occasions when the Cavs under James surrendered even two games in the opening round, right at the start of his career in 2006 and 2008, they fell at the next step, in seven to the Detroit Pistons and the Boston Celtics, respectively.
Having James, whether it be in Cleveland or Miami Heat colors, as the East’s beacon in the NBA Finals has been a remarkable streak, dating seven seasons. It is about to come to an end. It has always followed a familiar blueprint that was this time broken. Dominate early, and keep some gas in the tank.
There might not be a whole lot of gas left now, but hey, what a way to burn it. By lighting up for 45 points in Game 7, combined with nine rebounds and seven assists, James again showed so much of the fighting spirit that has kept him at the peak of the sport for so long.
If not for leg cramps, he would likely have stayed on court for the entire 48 minutes, like he was overheard promising to his family early in the contest.
Modern history shows teams that go about their business economically are rewarded later on.
Last season’s Finals combatants, James’ Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors, went into their showdown with a combined postseason record of 24-1.
The three losses to the Pacers was as many first-round losses that James-led teams had sustained in the previous nine postseasons. Combined.
Transcendent sports figures make their name by ignoring doubting voices and statistics, but to overturn the odds, you need something to fight it with. And James just doesn’t have enough within him or around him.
LeBron James-led teams had swept five consecutive first-round series before going to seven games against the Pacers this season.