LeBron James Deserves Your Respect

June 7, 2012; Boston, MA, USA; Miami Heat forward LeBron James (6) reacts during the third quarter of game six of the Eastern Conference finals of the 2012 NBA playoffs against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-US PRESSWIRE

LeBron James is the player to lead the Miami Heat to a championship.

Do you know what book LeBron James is reading?

Do you care?

You might not, but if the media decided to pump out articles about what book LeBron currently reads on the plane ride from Boston to Miami, you could probably sit through a 600 word article.

Some writers would be inspired to break it down even further. Surely the book LeBron is reading has inspired his 45-point destruction of the Celtics in Game 6! I say all this because from what I read this morning, LeBron James is NOT a Championship Player, and the only thing different is his new obsession with books by Suzanne Collins.

The article my colleague published this morning was in line with every other author who has written that LeBron James is not clutch. How do we know? Because we invent this idea of a "clutch" athlete. The Michael Jordan's who play through the flu. The Paul Pierce's who hit a pull up jumper to seal Game 5 with a three-point dagger on the road, despite being 5-18 on the floor. Clutch is something you - the spectator sitting on your couch - can hold on to.*

So what is LeBron holding on to?

Is it his third MVP trophy? Is it his desire for a championship ring? Is it the Hunger Games?

Do you care. Does it matter.

Last night was the second time LeBron James has put up 45-point in an elimination game in Boston. In 2008, Boston took the series and won the championship. This year, maybe the story is reversed. Any way you slice it, 45 points was "clutch" in the same way his famous three was in 2009.

What's remarkable is that LeBron put up at least 29 points in every game this series, averaging 34 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 4.2 assists while netting 54.2% - despite having to play the injured Chris Bosh's position in each game. Dwayne Wade, the grey beard of the Heat, has averaged 21.2 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.7 assists with only 44.0% accuracy. So who is leading the heat?

By the numbers, it isn't Dwyane Wade. Look at the playoff averages:

vs. NY

MIN

PTS

REB

AST

FG%

FTA

FT%

Lebron James

38.0

27.8

6.2

5.6

.478

11.4

.807

Dwyane Wade

35.8

21.0

3.4

4.0

.506

6.0

.567

vs. IND

MIN

PTS

REB

AST

FG%

FTA

FT%

Lebron James

42.2

30.0

10.8

6.2

.504

8.5

.725

Dwyane Wade

37.8

26.2

5.5

3.3

.422

8.8

.717

vs. BOS

MIN

PTS

REB

AST

FG%

FTA

FT%

Lebron James

45.5

34.0

10.8

4.2

.542

10.5

.635

Dwyane Wade

42.2

21.2

5.7

4.7

.440

5.8

.800

Dwyane Wade is a championship player, yet he's clearly underperforming. And yet my colleague would like to say LeBron James is not capable of championship status. That he cannot get the heat that so-desired championship ring. That he doesn't deserve that Olympic gold medal around his neck. But how does he know?

Before shooting a free throw last night, during his decimation of the Boston Celtics, Lebron James gave Rajon Rondo a "respect tap" on the leg. Why is this a big deal? As if LeBron was mired in the biggest slump of his career, Ryan Michaels tore into LeBron, asserting along with Jeff Van Gundy that LeBron is perhaps losing focus. Does this really need dissected?

The love-tap was surely not a calculated decision that LeBron cooked up in the hours before Game 6. Rondo has had one hell of a series, and as they passed each other on the floor - in the "heat" of the moment - LeBron gave him respect. All of a sudden, LeBron is accused of not having focus - of not having enough desire to win - of not being a leader - of not being a championship player.

It does not matter if Patrick Ewing would never do the same. You know what Larry Bird said defined his rivalry with Magic Johnson? Respect. And now there is a broadway play about their relationship.

For perspective, let's talk about my favorite youtube clip of the 2011-12 NBA season: The "Good Job, Good Effort" kid that praised the Heat after their embarrassment in Miami leaving Game 5:

(via Dorset4)

Afterward, the media found this kid to learn more about the good-mannered respect he gave the Heat on their way to the locker room. The best part of his story? He's 9 years old and has been a Heat fan for six years. According to the website buzz feed, "That's longer that 70% of the fan base."

Joking aside, the fact that any Heat fan could abandon ship over LeBron James - a player who frequently adds his name along side Wilt Chamberlain in the record books - showing "respect" is less of a fan than 9-year old Jack Meyer, and should be ashamed of himself.

Sorry, Ryan, but I must respectfully disagree.

*If we hate on LeBron for not performing as a clutch athlete, he deserves even more credit when he comes through. Otherwise, "clutch" is merely a shallow criticism for an idea that doesn't actually exist.

This article was written in response to our editorial this morning by SB Nation Tampa Bay co-writer Ryan Michaels, who deserves you respect as well. Consider this article simply a disagreement.

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