By CLIFF BRUNT
LeBron James has been unstoppable in these playoffs.
If he ever wants to truly be viewed among the very elite with Michael Jordan, or even Kobe Bryant, the Heat need to win this series against Oklahoma City.
He also needs to put Kevin Durant in his place.
James has had two games worthy of classic status in the postseason, one against Indiana, the other against Boston. His playoff averages of 30.8 points, 9.6 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game are well beyond what is fair to expect from a mortal.
And yet, there are doubts.
œThe Decision becomes œThe Debacle, or something worse for LeBron if the Heat don’t win. When you œtake your talents to South Beach to forge a dynasty before winning anything, especially after he left Cleveland in such a public manner, pressure follows.
But there’s another reason LeBron should be concerned. As great as he has been, he’s only been slightly better than Durant in these playoffs. Durant has averaged 27.8 points, 8.9 rebounds and 4.2 assists in the postseason. The Thunder swept the defending champion Mavericks in the first round, rolled past Bryant and the Lakers in the second and beat San Antonio to reach the Finals.
If Oklahoma City wins, that would mean Durant kept his talents with his original team, re-signed when he could have left and won a title before LeBron with no better a supporting cast.
It also throws into question whether LeBron, who has won three of the past four MVP awards, is the best player in the world anymore. After all, Durant was the All-Star game MVP after LeBron passed up a potential game-winner in the final seconds and famously took a tongue lashing from Bryant. If Durant wins this series, who’s to say he’s not better. Forget about Jordan. James might not be the best player in the league as we speak.
And remember, Durant is only 23 years old. Yep. Three scoring titles already. He’s not the defender James is yet, but he’s getting there.
It gets worse for James. Oklahoma City’s stars are young, and if they win a title, they might expect to win a few more before all is said and done.
And Miami might not even get out of the East next year if Indiana makes the right moves and Derrick Rose recovers from his torn ACL. The Heat might not even reach the East Finals.
Plus, Dwyane Wade is 30. Not old, but not getting younger.
So this might be James’ best shot. Before Oklahoma City goes from young hotshots to defending champions with veteran savvy, James needs to get on the scoreboard.
Right now, Jordan is up 6-0, and LeBron’s not exactly a rookie anymore.