The King is in The Building
I am a witness.
I became a witness in 2007, when the King went off against my beloved Pistons, scoring the final 25 points for the Cleveland Cavaliers, playing alongside the likes of Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Anderson Varejão and other dudes who are now selling real estate in an area near you.
I was a witness when he killed the collective souls of the 2012 Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals, scoring 45 points in Game 6 on the road. It wasn’t just the numbers, it was the way he did it, that look on his face, as if to say, not tonight, I’m not going out like this, even though the Celtics were up 3-2 and the game was in Boston and Pierce and Garnett were taunting him and it looked like another flameout. I will never forget that game.
I must break you.
I was a witness in 2013, when the King averaged 25, 10 and 7 in the Finals against the Spurs, who were really good. People will remember Ray Allen’s miracle shot, as they should, but will forget that the King had 37 in that game and was spectacular down the stretch.
People have selective memories that way.
Look, I have a selective memory too. People want their Kings to be perfect and never show weakness, never show humanity. Alas, kings are human. It’s difficult to think about the 2011 Finals, when the King seemed to disappear. It’s difficult to think about the 2014 Finals, when it didn’t look like the Heat stood a chance. It’s difficult to think about the 2010 Eastern Semifinals, against Boston, when the King appeared to quit. I have to acknowledge this too; but in a way, it was these nadir moments that have forged the way for the King to finally ascend his throne.
I was a witness in 2016. Oh, 2016. The year of the comeback. The year of the “OHHHMIIIIGAAAAD WHAT AM I WATCHING?”
There was simply no way the Cavs were going to beat that Warriors team. The team that won 73 games in the regular season, something that had never been done. Come back from a 3-1 deficit, something that had never been done in the NBA Finals.
But the King and Kyrie showed up in Game 5. Draymond got suspended for another nut punch. According to Lee Jenkins, LeBron implored his teammates to keep going by yelling from the back of the team bus in the middle of the comeback: “It’s already written!” Apparently so. If the book had already been written, nobody gave any of us a preorder. So I woke up at 2:00 AM from my apartment in Budapest to watch Game 7, win or lose. The game was close all the way. With just over a minute to go, the Warriors had a fast break that was sure to finally break the 89-89 tie that seemed cemented into the scoreboard, and, well, take us home, Jeff Van Gundy…
Blocked. By. James.
There are certain moments – wonderful moments and horrible moments alike – where you’ll always remember where you were when you saw it. The Block was one of those moments. The Block was a microcosm of the ridiculousness of that series. No way does LeBron chase down Iguodala for that block. No way do the Cavs hang with the best regular season team in history. But it was already written: the King prevails.
What a baby.
I used to care a lot about the King-vs-Jordan debate. Now, though, I’m not so interested in that. We’ll discuss it when it’s all over, when he hangs it up for the final time. There will be plenty of ESPN airspace for us to have that discussion.
For now, let me just enjoy the King. The King, who, at 32, enjoyed possibly his best season ever. The King, who recruits other guys to play with him, guys willing to take pay cuts to move to Cleveland. The King, who pretends to drink beer on the court and still soars for dunks and passes like an unbelievable point guard and gives great interviews.
Let me enjoy the greatest athlete of my lifetime.
When it’s over, we won’t ever see it again.
So here we are, on the eve of the final installment of the trilogy (though let’s be real, it would be a safe bet to assume that, like a Marvel series, there will probably be more on the way soon). I’m not going to make a pick, though if I had to bet my life, I’d probably take Golden State. This is a team that won 73 games a year ago and then added Kevin Durant in the offseason. It’s a team looking for revenge after a title was seemingly pilfered from them in the year of the comeback. It’s a team that has been shattering records all season, including the hustle plays that are difficult to measure, things like deflections, charges, and loose balls. They’re good, and they’re hungry.
But here’s what I know: for a seventh straight year, the King will be in the building. Somehow, he’s better than ever. For a seventh straight finals, he’ll be in the room where it happens. He’ll have a chance to defeat the most dominant playoff team ever, just a year after defeating the best regular season team ever. The King is in the building. And I’ll be a witness.