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Ice-cool LeBron spices up Heat
LeBron James' mighty effort for Miami Heat in the NBA finals against Oklahoma City Thunder has taken his legend to new heights.
There is something animal about LeBron James. His eyes blaze like a tiger that has spotted its kill. When he speaks to his friend Dwayne Wade, he covers his mouth lest he is lip read. Like a tiger, he does not want to leave anything to chance.
When his name is called out by the courtside announcer, he casually walks and stands in a corner and avoids the histrionics that is such a ritual with American sport. This is LeBron James season: He had the eye on the Larry O'Brien trophy and wanted to help Miami Heat win their first title in six years after the legacy of Shaq O'Neal.
The LeBron James legacy with Miami will rule NBA for some time now, the painful exit from Cleveland well forgotten. For two seasons now, Miami Heat have dominated the league. Last year, they were the overwhelming favourites but Dallas' outstanding performance turned Miami cold.
This time, Miami and LeBron are ready.
These are good times for the NBA for there is a rivalry developing too. NBA has always had rivalries. Boston Celtics vs the Los Angeles Lakers is the stuff of legend. During Michael Jordan's time, it was Chicago Bulls that dominated the floor, sweeping his rivals from Lakers' Magic Johnson to Detroit Pistons before ending the aspersions of Utah Jazz.
This time, Lebron James's rivalry with Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder will be the feature. In many ways it is a classic battle: the rich and famous from a rich and famous city to Okies, who build their values on the family system.
LeBron's victory and Kevin Durant's emergence as a suitable rival has helped the NBA quickly forget the mess at the start of the league when players' wages battle threatened to spoil the season. A curtailed league finally kicked off on Christmas day with an 82-game season getting reduced to 66-games.
Heat set the tone early on and as pretenders emerged, so did the pain of the ugly battle between owners and players. From the regular season, when the NBA moved to post season, it emerged that there were two warriors who would battle for long and hard.
Oklahoma eliminated the past year's champions Dallas Mavericks, eliminating their role in the play. Los Angeles Lakers were next done in by Durant and Russell Westbrook who were young and aggressive against the aging side that had Kobe Bryant. Oklahoma put out another ageing side, San Antonio Spurs, in the Western Conference before setting up a meeting with Miami Heat in the finals.
In the East, Chicago Bulls' re-emergence has been largely through the talented bunch of Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Tyler Hamilton, and Carlos Boozer. When it came to the finals, Miami heat were ready for the young OKC team. It was a classic champions versus pretenders battle with Miami winning Games II and III through sheer luck as OKC fluffed their lines.
It was only in Game 4 that the champions emerged, battling their way through their mental challenges. OKC had thrown down the gauntlet and Miami picked up their game from a 19-33 deficit in the end of the first quarter to win by a six-point margin.
If Tuesday's Game 4 was a long-distance race then Miami sat on the shoulder of OKC as the Western conference champions did the early running. Nobody emerged stronger from Tuesday's bruising battle more than LeBron James. In a tough physical challenge, he did look injured in the closing stages. He even sat out a minute in the final quarter before coming in limping.
He left his indelible mark on the NBA when, staying far away from the perimeter he fired a three-pointer which went it. It was with that three-pointer which gave them a minor lead in the final minutes, that James stamped his class.
The tiger has scented blood: The world will see a new champion.
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