LeBron James seems like a nice guy with a ready smile, who signs countless autographs, is more than willing to be interviewed, has never been in trouble and carries himself with class and dignity on and off the basketball court.
These qualities apparently don’t matter much when you’re perceived as selfish and arrogant, and the driving force that brought together the so-called “Super Team.”
After the Lakers disposed of the Boston Celtics in a thrilling seven-game NBA Finals last June, all the talk revolved around where James, the first overall pick by Cleveland in 2003, was going to play.
The Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks and New Jersey Nets were all interested, but James and his super-human skills settled, along with free agent Chris Bosh, a one-time Toronto Raptors’ star power forward, on the Miami Heat.
James’ thinking was that he had given everything to the Cavaliers, only to come up short. He needed better players around him, and it was time for a change. And more to the point, didn’t he have the right to take his talent elsewhere?
For sure it helped that perennial All-Star shooting guard Dwyane Wade, an NBA champion in 2006 when he pushed the Heat past Dallas in six games, was there.
When “The Decision,’’ was announced and televised on ESPN, James made enemies from coast to coast.
Why couldn’t he stay in Cleveland and win a title the old fashioned way like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant had?
After last Sunday’s 88-86 Miami win on a 16-foot jumper by Bosh (18 points and three rebounds) over the host Mavericks in Game 3 of the Finals, the Heat are two victories from their second banner, with Game 4 being played on Tuesday.
James hit six of 14 from the floor and finished with 17 points, along with three rebounds.
An incredible ball-handler in the mold of five-time NBA champ Earvin “Magic’’ Johnson, James, a 6-foot-8, 240-pound small forward, dished off nine assists.
In Game 2 last Thursday, the host Heat blew a 15-point lead with 6:19 left in the fourth quarter as the Mavericks rallied for a 95-93 win.
Miami was outscored 22-5 over that span and took too many jump shots, with Dallas power forward Dirk Nowitzki scoring nine of his 24 points during this amazing stretch.
James made eight of 15 from the field in Game 2, but went to the free-throw line four times, sinking two. The Heat drained 16 of 24 from the charity line, and were outscored 24-18 in the fourth quarter.
Wade was again the leading scorer for Miami in Game 2, accounting for a game-high 36 points on 13 of 20.
It was clear the Heat wanted to penetrate the paint in Game 3 and score from close range. James tallied eight points in the opening quarter with two slams and a lay up.
It was Wade who set the tone, making 12 of 21 shots for a team-best 29 points, including 19 at the half as the Heat led, 47-42.
James and Wade (11 boards and three assists) are uncanny in that when there is a loose ball and they get their hands on it, they’re down the floor for a jam.
You can’t count the number of times Miami’s defense has knocked the ball free with James and Wade racing in for easy dunks.
Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, and is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com, and is a columnist for socalboxing.wordpress.com. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.