LeBron’s time to win is now

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LeBon JamesYou’d think the topic of LeBron James’ mindset would be worn out by now. In fact, you’d think the topic of LeBron in general would be worn out already. But it isn’t because the only thing to talk about this year is how fucking good he is. We don’t want to admit it, but we’d rather exploit LeBron than rejoice over him. But after his 34-point, 10-assist, 7-rebound, 4-steal, 11-13-free-throw, 3-7-three-point output Wednesday night in a Miami Heat win over the high-octane, Western Conference-dominating Oklahoma City Thunder, it’s apparent that this year is the year we either start rejoicing over LeBron, or commence condemnation eternally.

Outside of James, the Heat have struggled this season. Dwayne Wade has been off-and-on injured and hasn’t quite found himself; a lingering Chris Bosh injury is a legitimate speculation; Mike Miller and Joel Anthony have been injured all year; Udonis Haslem and Shane Battier have been close to awful; rookie Norris Cole started the season hot and cooled since, and Ronny Turiaf is a shell of himself. When you truly dissect this team, it isn’t an unstoppable juggernaut by any means.

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LeBron James is. He’s having the best season of is career in this weird, compacted, back-to-back-riddled NBA season. It hasn’t fazed him once. And 24 hours after his season-high 41 points against the Philadelphia 76ers, he gave us Wednesday night’s aforementioned performance.

And when the scene of that game shifted after Russell Westbrook’s flagrant foul on James’ would-be breakaway dunk, LeBron embraced the atmosphere. Westbrook was charged, running wild and bobbing his head with the “Westbrook sucks!” chants, Kevin Durant was still a force although his turnovers were up, and players were flying around as they joined the decorative crowd in a genuine playoff ambiance. When LeBron exhibited the trademark, swagger-filled hop in his step and quick shot release, it was on. When he, as Hubie Brown said, “shot out of a cannon” with his steal and dunk with just over two minutes remaining in the first half, there was something noticeably different about him. As a vehement NBA fan and former LeBron enthusiast, I’ve never seen that speed and explosiveness out of him. He’s exuded overconfidence in meaningless regular season games before, but nothing like that. To cap it off, he hit a deep jumper at the buzzer to end the half. All he could do after that was stare down the opponent with fierce eyes.

Perceive the game how you want (meaningless regular season game doubling as a Finals preview, meaningless game between two powerhouses, meaningful game between two powerhouses, meaningless altogether), this game was actually important to LeBron James. After the game, he answered a question with, “It’s playoff basketball.” When he was reminded it’s the regular season, he responded: “It’s playoff basketball.”

We can look at the game from every angle, including the ones previously touched on, James’ magnificent defense late in the game, and the fact that the majority of the offense ran through him. We can look at stats. We can look at how LeBron willed his team to its first noteworthy victory on national television since who-knows-when.

But none of those things come close to the importance of timing. The playoffs start in three weeks. The Heat needed a trademark win to get themselves in the postseason groove. LeBron was cognizant of that and took charge. He truly showed that the Miami Heat are his team and he’s been showing it all season. And, as we all know, Miami’s success in the playoffs hinges on LeBron. This game was either the launching pad for a championship, or the aberration that made us actually think LeBron James had IT in him.

The time is here and now for LeBron. He already vanquished the Celtics. The Bulls don’t deserve to be in the same league as the Heat in a seven-game series format. The Lakers and Spurs can’t keep up. The Clippers are nowhere near ready. Dallas is still celebrating the title. The Thunder lack experience. The window is wide open, and the title is there for the taking.

We will inevitably denounce every mind-blowing thing he does on the basketball court forever if he, yet again, disappoints. If he can’t succeed this year, with the stars neatly aligned, he never will. But will we rejoice if he succeeds? Will we marvel over something that was imminent all along, or, more than that, supposed to have happened already? It’s tough to say, but in the end, We Are All Witnesses.

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