With a victory Tuesday night over the Oklahoma City Thunder, and now up three games to one, the Miami Heat are firmly in command and poised to win the NBA championship.  But while basketball is a team game, a Heat title will really only be about one player.

The sport of basketball has been waiting a long time for this – a chance to crown King James, one of the most celebrated players in history.  Game five in Miami on Thursday night should be his coronation.

LeBron James

In sports there is often a reference to “whose time it is”.  It now seems that LeBron’s time has finally come.

Disabling leg cramps didn’t stop him from nailing a critical three-point shot in the closing minutes of a heart-stopping game four.  And now it appears all the pressure any athlete has ever faced won’t stop him from completing the championship mission he has been groomed for.

I am neither a LeBron hater, nor an adoring fan, but I do admire his talent, dedication, and sportsmanship, but even more so, I respect his ability to shake off scrutiny that over the years has often been harsh and unfair.  I’ve at times been one of those critics.

Because of his transcendent talent, which has been marveled and written about since he reached puberty in Akron, Ohio, many of us thought LeBron could and should be the next evolutionary step after Michael Jordan.  But we seem to forget that it took seven, sometimes humbling, seasons for Jordan to be appreciated for more than his basketball artistry, and to be defined as the ultimate winner.

Becoming a winner takes time.  Becoming an all-time great with championship rings as adornments can take even longer.

This is LeBron’s third trip to the NBA Finals.  The first time, five years ago while he was with Cleveland, resulted in a sweeping blowout loss to the San Antonio Spurs.  Last year’s loss to the Dallas Mavericks was even more discomfiting because the expectations for Miami were so much higher, punctuated by LeBron’s bewildering disappearing acts in the series’ fourth quarters.   But with each disappointment LeBron has endured he’s obviously grown wiser and now seems prepared to take part in a championship celebration.

I can’t conclude this without mentioning the other two parts of the Big Three – Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

Wade of course is a superstar with a ring already.  Six years ago, he put on one of the all-time great playoff performances to lead Miami to its first NBA championship.  But he has never been put under the microscope like LeBron.  Wade who really has nothing to prove will gladly take a supporting role to LeBron this time around.

Chris Bosh, who severely strained his abdominal muscles during the series against the Indiana Pacers, proved his worth, through his absence, and no longer has people denigrating his role as the third wheel of the celebrated trio.  Nonetheless he too will gladly be a prince at LeBron’s crowning ceremony.

From the time LeBron controversially announced he was taking his talents to South Beach two years ago, this has all been about this upcoming crowning moment.  He’s never had a close out game to win it all and as a result I expect he will play one of the best games of his life Thursday night and leave no doubt about his place among basketball royalty.   It’s LeBron’s time.  Oklahoma City and Kevin Durant will have to wait their turn.

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