Fellow superstar Dwyane Wade has struggled, and Chris Bosh is trying to revert to form after missing most of the playoffs because of a stomach muscle injury, so the Heat has looked to James to carry most of the water. He’s hauling it without complaint.
With Miami trailing the Indiana Pacers, 2-1, in the best-of-seven semifinals, James was sensational (he had a 40-point, 18-rebound, nine-assist outing in Game 4) as the team stormed to three consecutive victories.
We know that James was roundly ripped for joining Wade — and to a lesser extent, Bosh — in free agency after the 2009-10 season. In fleeing the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Heat, James acknowledged he wasn’t strong enough to guide a team to a title, many NBA observers said. Supposedly, James wouldn’t be the Heat’s leading man.
Reality is, the Heat is now James’s team. A shift occurred sometime this season. Since the playoffs began, the passing of the torch has been as clear as the ocean view from a South Beach high-rise condo.
James is the Heat’s focal point on offense and its tone-setter on defense. The team counts on James as much as any NBA franchise relies on one player.
Wade led the Heat to an NBA title and will always hold an important place in the hearts and minds of the team’s fans. You never forget your first love. But James is the Heat’s present and future.
Team officials likely would have taken a wrecking ball to the roster this offseason if Boston had won Thursday.
Heat President Pat Riley lured James to Miami to raise the only banner that truly matters, and Riley still may break up the group unless a Heat-inspired parade occurs near the end of the month.
The prideful Celtics will regroup for Game 7. The Heat is counting on it. James knows his work isn’t finished yet — which is good news for all of us who get to watch.
For Jason Reid’s previous columns visit washingtonpost.com/reid.