I love LeBron. I really do. The kid gets it in every way. He truly deserves to win a championship before he's through, and I have little doubt that he will.
Here is LeBron following Sunday's Game 7: "I think the second round of the postseason, Game 7, these fans have an opportunity to forget a little bit about what Larry Bird and Dominique [Wilkins] did and remember what Paul and LeBron did. Two of the best in the league. It was very exciting to be a part of it, especially in this building. Like I said, Game 7 in the Garden, it gets no better than this. As a fan of basketball, I know so much about the history. This will go down in history."
Compared to the average player, he's Toynbee or Commager. But I hope he won't be offended if I say his big moment did not match up to the Larry-Dominique moment, not because he and Pierce weren't first-rate, but because they were the only ones in that 97-92 Celtics victory who were.
The two games in question simply do not compare.
Consider what went on at the old Garden on the afternoon of May 22, 1988:
--- Final Score: Boston 118, Atlanta 116.
--- Wilkins had 47 points, including 16 in the fourth quarter.
--- Bird had 34 points, including 20 in the fourth quarter, during which he shot 9 for 10.
--- Kevin McHale had 33 points.
--- Doc Rivers had 16 points and 18 assists, exiting to a standing ovation from the Boston crowd when he fouled out.
--- Randy Wittman shot 10 for 12.
--- The teams shot a combined 59 percent from the floor.
--- The teams had a combined 15 turnovers. 15. That's correct. They scored 234 points with 15 combined turnovers.
The game was played at the absolute highest level 1980s NBA basketball could provide.
Now consider Sunday's game.
--- Final score: Boston 97, Cleveland 92.
--- LeBron had 45.
-- Pierce had 41.
-- Only three other players were in double figures.
--- The next best player for Cleveland was Delonte West, who had 15.
-- The next best player for Boston was Kevin Garnett, with 13 points and 13 rebounds.
--- The Best Supporting role went to P.J. Brown, with those 10 points, 6 rebounds, 4-for-4 shooting, the game's most important basket and a key defensive play against LeBron, using every inch of that 6-foot-11-inch frame to discourage the lad's move to the hoop.
Beyond the LeBron-Pierce dynamics, it was not a particularly good demonstration of the modern NBA product, containing, among other things, very shaky officiating on the part of Bennett Salvatore, Ken Mauer, and, most notably, Ed F. Rush.
I do not wish to denigrate the experience. It was a lot of fun. But it was magnified by the pretty awful six games that had preceded it. Just about anything would have been better than Games 1-6 and the LeBron-Pierce battle was a welcome cherry on a pretty poor sundae.
Let me put it this way: If you liked what you saw Sunday, you would have loooooved what we were truly privileged to see May 22, 1988.
But LeBron, you're welcome back, anytime.