Miami Heat: 39 Games Later, LeBron James Has Commanded Respect

Danny DolphinAnalyst IJanuary 12, 2011

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 25:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat looks on during the NBA game against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on December 25, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. The Heat defeated the Lakers 96-80. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)
Victor Decolongon/Getty Images

Most of the world wanted LeBron James ostracized this summer after the words "South Beach" speared from his multimillionaire lips on national television.

Nobody wanted to see the Eastern Conference's two best players in James and Dwyane Wade team up, besides Miami Heat fans of course, or those eventual bandwagon fans who are accumulating at a faster pace than Mike D'Antoni's offense.

Tough because that happened.

After 39 games, a conference leading 30-9 record, constant boos and enough highlights to fill years of SportsCenter, has the mood about LeBron changed? What about after the Heat have won 21 of their last 22 and are on the cusp of breaking the NBA's all-time record for consecutive road wins?

The answer has to be yes.

Actually, Cleveland still hates the man because they will never forgive a superstar for leaving a crappy situation on a maxed out team in an even crappier city because after seven years of coming up short all he wanted to do was win championships. Cavalier fans are now irrelevant and don't have a say in the matter.

Dear city of Cleveland:

Blame Danny Ferry, a man who valued J.J Hickson more than acquiring Amar'e Stoudemire. Blame your winter weather and depressing city for not being appealing enough to draw any premiere free agents to hop along the LeBron train. Don't blame LeBron.

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He acted within his rights. Call him selfish, but he left not for the money, but for the purity of winning, which should be the only goal in any sport.

-The End.

I'm sorry, let's continue, but first check out his stat line this year to serve as a little refresher for the work he has done this season:

25.3 Points, 7.0 Rebounds, 7.2 Assists, 48 Percent from the field and 36 percent from three.

Yes, LeBron has commanded and achieved respect. After all, he is the most talented athlete on earth. Yes I used the word "athlete" instead of "basketball player" because is there any question at this point?

Is there any doubt he could have been an All-Pro football player? In fact, if he threw out the high tops for cleats right now, I think he'd make it in the NFL no doubt. In no means am I belittling the skills of a professional football player. He is just that gifted.

If someone told me they were apart of the LeBron James Experiment back on December 30, 1984, in which then first-year commissioner David Stern genetically engineered the perfect athlete underground in some bunker in Akron, I wouldn't blink.

What other explanation is there for a man standing 6'8'', nearly 270 pounds of rock with the raw athleticism of a Julius Erving and the skills of Larry Bird, Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson intertwined into one super being?

If Superman exists his name is LeBron James.

On road games this year, it goes a little like this, except for in Cleveland, of course. First the game opens up to a ridiculous amount of booing whenever LeBron does anything. The fans, meanwhile, have no clue as to why their booing.

LeBron steals the pass, stampedes down the court, and rises up for a bone-crushing slam. Booooooooo.

James blocks the layup, looks ahead and throws the most incredible pass I've ever seen to Wade for throw down. Boooooo.

Sometime you wonder what the rim ever did to him.

After a few of those highlights to open up the crowd, they allows themselves to actually enjoy witnessing greatness in person. The boos aren't as deep, and there are noticeable oohs and aahs.

Face it, y'all can't help it! He's kind of a good player.

Even the same analysts who claimed LeBron killed his legacy just months ago are now praising him as this season's front runner for MVP.

Any basketball fan who doesn't appreciate LeBron's game isn't a fan of the game, but a cynic of life. He is, and this is an absolute certainty, the most exciting player ever.

Then for a guy this talented, he shouldn't be so unselfish. Michael Jordan never was and Kobe Bryant never is. Sometimes that is LeBron's biggest and only detriment. He's too unselfish.

Many love to compare him to Kobe or Michael, as if it's putting him down. He may never have the killer instinct of those two elite superstars, but he has things they don't, believe it or not. He is a superior passer, and that isn't debatable.

I've also never seen a superstar better pick his spots, in any sport. Just 39 games in and he has already mastered the concept of this team, a team like no other in NBA history.

Nobody on the Heat has had to sacrifice more than LeBron. Sure many label this black and red sensation as "Wade's team," but he still has the same mentality of being a pure scorer. Wade's role has remained unchanged, besides being more of a slasher away from the ball.

LeBron had to do EVERYTHING on every team in his 26-year-old life until this season. Now he is on a true team. It's no longer "Let's stand around and watch this guy go to work". Finally he can appreciate the game for what it is, the ultimate team sport.

You would think it would be difficult to drastically adjust your role after so many years of having the same mentality.

Yet LeBron, with the help of coach Erik Spoelstra, has adjusted already. Spoelstra's rotations still allow for a few minutes of each half where LeBron has free reign with no Wade or Chris Bosh next to him. It's a special time for LeBron to be LeBron.

Then to close the game, for example, his superstar amigos come back on the floor and he plays the role of facilitator. He still can create for himself and others, but knows when Wade wants to shoot four times in a row he's going to do just that.

His role down the stretch is to pick his spots and defend with a purpose, but if Wade is hot it's his rock.

The kid is a winner—an unselfish winner at that. So he hasn't won a championship. Please belittle him for that. Since leaving the Cavs, his former team has plummeted to 8-30. Oh and they lost to the Lakers by 55 points last night. Yes, you read that correctly, FIFTY FIVE. 

Jordan couldn't have won without Pippen. Shaq couldn't have won without Kobe and vice versa. Kobe couldn't have won without Pau Gasol. The only team of the past few decades that doesn't meet that quota is the 2004 Pistons who, despite the lack of a superstar, were the one of the best defensive teams of all time. 

Don't ever question his value again.

And you can't help, regardless of what team you root for, but appreciate his style. Many are starting to come around again now that the action is back and the sensational highlights have returned.

Don't discount a guy for making a major PR mistake at the age of 25. Appreciate him for who he is, a master of his craft.

Slowly but surely LeBron is regaining the respect. It might take months or even years for the boos to die down completely, but it's about time he gets his due because he is the most talented man to ever pick up a basketball.



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