“For LeBron, winning back-to-back titles is not as big as winning multiple titles,’’ Shaquille O’Neal told the Daily News’s Mitch Lawrence the other day. “He’s got to keep winning titles and get more and more, because when it comes down to it he’s going to be measured against Kobe and Michael when his career is over. It’s more than doing just the back-to-back. He’s always going to be compared to those two players. Michael and Kobe. So he’s got to keep winning and winning.’’
And winning — or be miserable.
LeBron already has one more MVP than Magic Johnson or Larry Bird, a phenomenal feat at just 28 years of age. But the real gauge of his worthiness as a great player is that he now has five fewer rings than Michael and four fewer rings than Kobe.
It’s just Game 2 everywhere else in the reasoned sports world. But in this percolating, pressure-filled bubble, the crucible of this dream Heat season is about to commence — a now-or-never, white-hot stand on the home front.
The Spurs have won seven in a row. San Antonio hasn’t lost since May 12 and is a remarkable 41-7 at home this season. Miami needs Game 2 like nothing else in the universe, because the notion of having to win two in San Antonio just to get back home for Games 6 and 7 is an unthinkable gauntlet at the moment.
“You have to go through it,” Spoelstra said, doing his boss proud, upping the emotional ante. “There is no easy way. The journey is tough.”
The Heat coach was asked how long LeBron could guard Parker to make Spoelstra feel comfortable.
“Whatever it takes,” he said. “That’s my deal with LeBron. He understands. . . . Wherever we need it. We have 14 days left. Whatever it takes.”
This is the world they live in, after all, the world Riley created, Spoelstra carries on and LeBron now lords over. The doctrine, the covenant of taking it all too seriously, and the tremendous tradeoff they have all signed on for, only they can truly feel: that if it kills the soul this much to lose it must be even more euphoric to stand on the podium and call yourself champion.
For more by Mike Wise, go to washingtonpost.com/wise.