2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner

NBA Finals: LeBron James’ absence shows his greatness

Published: June 6, 2014, 10:20 am, by Paul Klee

There’s a long list of misconceptions in the NBA. Kevin Love is a franchise player. The NBA fixes things so big-market teams reach the Finals. The Spurs have great individual defenders (have you seen Tim Duncan defend the pick-and-roll, or Tony Parker stop the ball?). Carmelo Anthony isn’t a winner.

These are things we accept, because we are told they are true. They’re not. 

Today we’re told that LeBron James’ legacy — ugh, loathe that word — took a hit when leg cramps banished him to the bench for the final 3:59 of Game 1 in the NBA Finals. In fact, it’s the opposite.

All it showed was that no team in the NBA playoffs relies more on one player than the Heat rely on James. Without him, the Heat are quite average, nowhere near the team that has reached four straight NBA Finals.

When James went to the bench, here was the score: Spurs 94, Heat 92. With James on the bench, the Spurs ended the game on an 11-3 run.

Now go back to Game 6 of the Western Conference finals. 

With Tony Parker on the bench for the entire second half, the Spurs still beat the Thunder. With Parker on the bench, the Spurs outscored the Thunder 11-6 in overtime.

Is this a comparison of James to Parker? Of course not. It’s a comparison of the respective rosters. 

Take a key player out of the Spurs’ lineup and the Spurs chug along. Take the key player out of the Heat lineup and the Heat crumble. Outside of James and an aging Dwyane Wade, the Heat roster is just OK. The Spurs’ roster is far more complete, as shown when a key player is removed and it continues right along winning.

The Spurs are all about Parker, Ginobili, Duncan, Green, Splitter, etc. The Heat are all about James.

When James’ career is over, I suspect he trumps Michael Jordan as the greatest of all-time. His absence at the end of Game 1 doesn’t smash that theory; it again shows his value and supports that theory.

Twitter: @Klee_Gazette