In many ways, the Boston Celtics had come to symbolize the wall LeBron James could neither slash through nor leap over.
At least that seemed to be true during his time wearing a Cleveland Cavaliers jersey. But Wednesday night, James, with the help of his new Miami Heat teammates, eliminated the very Celtics team that thwarted the Cavs at this same juncture of the playoffs and effectively ended James’ career in Cleveland.
Apparently being eliminated last season by the Celtics big three of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen was the final straw in convincing James he couldn’t do by himself. The King needed help. So he joined forces last summer with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, announcing his departure from Cleveland in a poorly planned ESPN infomerical.
James' decision and how it was handled drew the ire of his hometown fans, as well as much of the nation. James was never apologetic for how he handled the situation.
But finally, after defeating Boston in the second round of the playoffs to advance to the Eastern Conference finals, James saw fit to finally explain his decision to Cleveland to take his “talents to South Beach.”
“I couldn’t do it by myself against that team,” James said to Yahoo! Sports following the 97–87 Game 5 win that eliminated the defending Eastern Conference champs. “I apologize for the way it happened, but I knew this opportunity was once in a lifetime.”
It’s hard to measure whether this small show of compassion will resonate with the folks who had supported James since he was a freshman at nearby Akron St. Mary’s High School. My thought is it’s too little too late.
James has become the No. 1 most hated in Cleveland not because he left, but for the cowardly way in which he left. James made his announcement in a neutral state instead of facing up to Cleveland.
Rather than fight with the team he had or try to influence others to join him in Cleveland, James took the easier path of joining forces with Wade and Bosh. Apparently, James looked at the talent the Celtics had assembled and decided he could never get past them in Cleveland, which explains why he seemed to give up during the second round of last year’s playoffs. Never mind that Pierce, Garnett and Allen are all getting older and that this fall was likely inevitable.
But that isn’t how James saw it. He was clearly emotional following Wednesday’s win. “In order for me to move on with my career, we had to go through them,” James said of the Celtics.
What James doesn’t understand is with the loaded deck Pat Riley has assembled in Miami, the bigger surprise would have been if the Heat had not gotten past the Celtics. Bosh and James were brought in to join Wade to put forth a good showing against aging Boston. They were assembled to win it all.
With the Los Angeles Lakers, San Antonio Spurs and now the Boston Celtics all being eliminated, Miami seems to have a clear path to the NBA title. Anything short of that would be considered a failure.
(Photo: AP Photo/Charles Krupa)