On the eve of Game 5 of the NBA Finals, with the series tied at 2 games apiece, Bill Simmons, one of the most popular sports columnists in America made a stunning prediction. “If Miami blows this Finals after choking away Games 2 and 4, after everything that happened since The Decision,” Simmons wrote, “the Internet might explode.”
Let’s start at the beginning. Last June, when the dust had barely settled on Kobe Bryant’s fifth NBA title, LeBron James traveled to the Boys and Girls Club in Greenwich, Connecticut for “The Decision.” In a one-hour splurge of ego using children as background props, James famously said, “I’m taking my talents to South Beach.”
This entire NBA season was supposed to be a coronation of King James. Flanked by stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, the Miami Heat were supposed to win their first of what pundits thought would be several titles. The script unfolded almost perfectly, with Miami meeting the Dallas Mavericks in the finals.
For basketball fans, the greatest stars have always been judged by their performance on the biggest stage. Michael Jordan famously scored 38 points with a 103-degree fever in the 1997 NBA Finals. That’s why the Internet has been on fire this series blasting James’ performance with the game on the line. In six games, James scored 18 points 4th-quarter points; Dallas’s Dirk Nowitzki, the Finals MVP, put up 54 points in the six closing quarters.
The Heat may be done for the season, and it seems the Internet will live on a bit longer. Immediately after the game, Twitter trends poked fun at “King James,” but most of the tweets congratulated Nowitzki, a warrior who’s spent his entire career playing hurt and healthy, battling for one team. One of the funniest, tweeted by Harry Potter villain Lord Voldemort: “Dear Dirk, I’m definitely sure your championship ring has a piece of Lebron’s soul in it.”
Columnists were brutal. Jay Kaspian Kang wondered if we should write off LeBron altogether, while fans in Cleveland, the city LeBron abandoned to chase his title dreams in Miami, clung to an AP story that quoted LeBron addressing his critics saying, “At the end of the day, they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life that they had before they woke up today.” NBC ran that quote under the headline, “LeBron has a few arrogant words for those who hate him.”
Few came to LeBron’s defense, but the ones that did put his performance in perspective. Philadelphian @timmyfury tweeted, “Muammar Gaddafi, Kim Jong-il, Rick Santorum: these are evil villains. Lebron James is just a 26yo professional basketball player.” Leave it to the tweeps to make sense of the chaos.
(VIDEO: LeBron James: Making the Shot)