On February 18, 2002, a high school basketball phenom from Ohio graced the cover of Sports Illustrated with the words ‘The Chosen One' printed in big, bold letters.
And on June 21, 2012, The Chosen One finally realized the expectations bestowed upon him by coaches, fans, media, players, front office executives, marketing executives, and anybody else that could possibly profit off of his success.
His hometown team picked him first overall. He has been selected to eight All-Start teams in his nine seasons in the league. Six times he was recognized as a member of the All-NBA First Team, including the past five straight years. He honed his game enough to be named to the NBA All-Defensive First Team each of the past four years. The league has named him the NBA MVP three times, including this season. Now, he has won the award that, until now, eluded him -- the award that has mattered the most: the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy.
What's more, he didn't do it riding the coattails of his teammates, as one writer asserted he would. He dominated when his team needed him the most. Down two games to one in the second round of the playoffs, The Chosen One scored 40 points, grabbed 18 rebounds, and added 9 assists for good measure. The Miami Heat never looked back. Facing elimination on the road in the Eastern Conference Finals, The Chosen One scored 45 points, collected 15 rebounds, and dished 5 assists to his teammates. After losing the opening game of the NBA Finals on the road, The Chosen One came back the next game to score 32 points, which included making all 12 of his free throws in a game the Heat won by four points. In the title-clinching game, we were all witnesses to a triple double: 26 points, 11 rebounds, and 13 assists. To the surprise of nobody who watched more than ten minutes of this series, he was named the MVP of the NBA Finals.
The man cursed with impossibly high expectations has finally met them. One of the most decorated players in history finally reached the peak of his profession, and he did it with the second half of his career still in front of him. There's room for even more All-Star games, more MVPs, more championships.
So is the sky the limit for The Chosen One? Right now, the sky is his view. Coaching legend Red Auerbach once said "The first one (championship) is always the hardest, and it's also the most satisfying" (via NBA.com). He will never feel this way again, and he deserves to bask in all of this moment's glory. He can worry about his future, his legacy, and future championships when training camp opens.
Until then, his fans and critics can also sit back and marvel at this incredible playoff run. If he isn't considered one already, he will one day be considered an all-time great, and he just turned in one of the better performances the NBA has ever seen.
So today, I send my congratulations to The Chosen One.
You earned it.