We saw the beginnings of what has now come to full fruition back in the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals.
It was LeBron James’ first postseason the year prior in 2006, and he carried a woefully undermanned squad with guys like Flip Murray, Donyell Marshall and Eric Snow to a Game 7 against a heavily-favored Detroit Pistons crew that was coming off back-to-back Finals appearances and featured the likes of Chauncey Billups, Ben Wallace, Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince and Rasheed Wallace.
The Cavs lost that Game 7, but LeBron came back the next year seeking blood.
And in 2007, the stage was even bigger: the Eastern Conference Finals. Cleveland lost the first two games and James’ performances were sub-par. The haters were gleeful and out in full force, even back then, saying that King James was nothing more than a product of the media’s hype machine.
Remember? Sure you do.
Do you remember what came next?
In Game 3, LeBron answered the bell like Marvelous Marvin Hagler coming out to swing on the Motor City Cobra with 32 points, nine boards and nine assists in Cleveland’s 88-82 victory. Game four was more of the same with 25 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds in the Cavs 91-87 win.
But it was in Game 5 when we all became witnesses to the future of the funk, when he rambunctiously came rumbling through the function, announcing that he would be gunning over the remainder of his career for the ghost of Michael Jordan in terms of his ultimate legacy.
Game 5 was the signature individual postseason performance that reserved his undeniable spot to come on basketball’s Mount Rushmore. With the Cavs leading 79-78 with 6:05 remaining in the game, James had 19 points at that juncture.
And then, the sycophants who worshiped at the alters of Jordan and Kobe got tight!
In slightly over 16 minutes of game time, LeBron dominated in ways that made some blind men see, scoring 29 of Cleveland’s 30 points, including his squad’s final 25 points while making 11 of his 13 shot attempts. He forced OT on a vicious dunk with mere seconds remaining in regulation, then proceeded to close things out in double-overtime with a driving layup with two seconds left.
I circled the calendar on that day, May 31st, 2007, with a note that said, “Never thought I’d see someone who might surpass Jordan. I was wrong.”
I know I’ll never forget what I saw that night and still remember my daughters running down the steps into the basement to check on me.
“Daddy, are you OK? Why are you screaming?”
“Because I just saw something I never thought I’d see. His name is LeBron James. He’s only 22 years old. And he’s got a chance to be the best that ever did it when it’s all said and done.”