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A week ago, things were looking up for LeBron James. Now, there is nowhere to go but up.
How Quickly We Forget
June 14, 2007 -- What a difference a week makes.
A week ago, I weighed five more pounds than I do right now (I'm almost in beach shape).
A week ago, I was beyond nervous that "The Sopranos" finale was going to be a huge letdown (I was wrong).
A week ago, I was relieved that Paris Hilton had been set free. (I'm just hoping for an invite to the big "Released from Prison" party her family is planning.)
A week ago, I had yet to fall in love with a little show I like to call "Fast Cars and Superstars." (I seriously cannot wait to see John "Spider" Salley trying to climb through the window of a stock car Dukes of Hazzard-style.)
A week ago, I had yet to begin preparing for my annual Flag Day celebration bash (my red, white and blue pasta salad keeps 'em coming back).
A week ago, my cell phone ring tone was not a Justin Timberlake song ("This just can't be summer loooooove...").
A week ago, I hadn't yet gotten my first bad surnburn of the season, which is making me peel like a snake in summer. (I'm molting! I'm molting!)
A week ago, I had not yet picked out a Father's Day present. (Shoot, I still haven't done that yet.)
A week ago, I was counting down the hours until Game 1 tipped off. (I spent the afternoon and early evening just pacing up and down the street.)
A week ago, I thought Spurs guard Tony Parker was overrated. (Ohhh, so this is what crow tastes like.)
A week ago, I thought Matt Bonner was still on the Raptors. (Hey, at least I've heard of him.)
A week ago, I thought that Tim Duncan might be due for a bad series. (Has there ever been a more consistently excellent player in the history of professional sports?)
A week ago, I was flattered by the people saying I looked like Zydrunas Ilgauskas (now I'm just praying for one Fabricio Oberto comparison - he has better hair).
A week ago, I had hope for Cleveland's fans (not much, but some).
A week ago, I joined the rest of the basketball world (and the world in general) in heaping praise on Cavs star LeBron James. (Who? Never heard of him.)
A week ago, LeBron James was coming off of an historic and heroic performance in the Eastern Conference Finals. (I'm already getting nostalgic thinking about Game 5.)
A week ago, LeBron entered into another realm of public awareness... my mom's. (I call it the "Good Morning America" test. My mom watches nothing but GMA, so if she's heard of a player, he has successfully penetrated the national consciousness.)
A week ago, LeBron was the focal point. Everything he did in preparation for his and his team's first appearance in The Finals was captured by cameras. (Do they make DVD's for the runner-up?)
A week ago, every reporter who covers the game was putting his or her own spin on the "Can LeBron do it one more time?" feature. (There were no reports of serious injuries from everyone jumping off LeBron's bandwagon.)
A week ago, I thought LeBron got past the idea of having to get all of his teammates involved as opposed to just taking over. (Has he forgotten that he doesn't have one real "shooter" on his team?)
A week ago, I forgot that LeBron was just 22 years old. (You don't want to know what I was doing when I was 22. No, seriously, you don't.)
But a week has passed and things have changed.
The Spurs are already up 3-0 and have the Cavs teetering on the brink of elimination. San Antonio is on the doorstep of history, about to win its fourth NBA title in nine years and continue its climb up the ranks of all-time great teams. They have done so in dominant fashion and are looking to sweep (something the great Celtics, Lakers and Bulls have never done). They have bumped King James out of the headlines and relegated him just another commoner.
But to forget what he has done to get here would be doing LeBron James a great disservice. I mean, has everyone forgotten what we were all thinking just a week ago?
When I look back on 2007, my first and greatest memory will be his Game 5 in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Detroit Pistons. Less than two weeks ago, just after midnight on that Friday morning, I was jumping up and down on my bed in the dark. (I will always remember where I was when I watched it... joining the ranks of other historic events such as the Challenger disaster, O.J. and A.C. in the white Bronco and Ashlee Simpson getting busted for lip synching on SNL.) At the time, I said it was the best individual performance in the playoffs that I'd ever seen. He made the impossible shots and scored every time he needed to in that double OT victory. In the series, James led the Cavs with 25.7 ppg, 9.2 rpg and 8.5 apg.
But then some went from calling him the best player in the world during that series to overmatched and overhyped in The Finals because he couldn't single-handedly carry his team to one more series win. (Seems unfair, doesn't it?) It's true that Jordan never lost in The Finals, but Larry and Magic did (and Shaq, Isiah lost in their first Finals appearances). It would be a shame if our respect for LeBron was somehow diminished because he lacked a better supporting cast. If it would have been better for his long-term legacy, I would have rooted for the Cavaliers to lose in the last round.
So if others can get away with forgetting James' performance in the Eastern Conference Finals, then I should be allowed to forget his performance in this series. Or that he was even in this series at all.
A week ago, LeBron James was the future of this league. A week later, he still is.