Heavy is the head of he who wears the crown. Cleveland and former four-time league MVP LeBron James may have won the battle against Oklahoma City 115-92 Sunday night, but one vociferous Thunder fan won the war… of words. With 34.2 seconds remaining in the first-half, James demonstrably disagreed with a call made by official Derrick Collins. This James protest set the stage for one of the NBA’s unforgettable moments of the 2015-2016 season.
As an ABC camera zoomed in on James’ reaction, the priceless bellowing of “Just suck it up, LeBron” could be clearly heard coming from a seemingly innocent, yet highly-annoyed Oklahoma City supporter siting court-side.
Obviously, the two-time NBA champion “just sucked it up” as his 40-14 Cavaliers outscored the home-standing 40-16 Oklahoma City Thunder 55-39 in the second half. James finished with 25 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists, and three steals in Sunday’s marquee match-up. Overall, the Eastern Conference-leading Cavaliers have won 10-0f-12 contests.
For James, who has appeared in the previous five NBA Finals, Sunday’s win against his high-powered foe was perceived as a stepping stone to bigger things as he had this to say to ESPN following the contest.
“We have to bring the fight, no matter who we’re playing. It just makes us focus when we’re more physical. We’re more in tune.”
A healthy Cavaliers squad is currently making easy work of the Eastern Conference. However, in last season’s NBA Finals, opposite the historically surging Golden State Warriors, the banged-up Cavs were soundly defeated, as James dropped to 2-4 in the championship round.
In light of that harsh setback, the Cavaliers have seemingly responded positively to both their leader’s early-season remarks concerning overall team toughness and the abrupt January firing of former Head-Coach David Blatt. In his second-season at the helm, Blatt was let go after guiding Cleveland to a 30-11 record to begin the season.
Many NBA pundits placed the onus for Blatt’s firing squarely upon LeBron James. Citing the earlier dismissals of former LBJ head coaches Paul Silas and Mike Brown as the culprit. Nonetheless, James steadfastly refuted these allegations when speaking to Cleveland.com.
“People get it so misconstrued because I’m a smart basketball player and I’ve voiced my opinion about certain things, which I did when I was here my first stint with Paul Silas and Mike Brown. Which I did in Miami with Coach Spo. Which I did with Blatt, and I’ll do with T-Lue. And at the end of the day, they’ll still have their final call.”
An incredulous James further distanced himself from the Blatt firing by stating to Cleveland.com:
“But what can I do about it? I’ve never, in my time since I picked up a basketball, ever undermined a coach, ever disrespected a coach.”
Even with the melodrama having played out this season, Cleveland is 10-3 since former assistant coach Tyronn Lue has taken over the head-coaching duties. Furthermore, at 31-years-of age, Cleveland superstar LeBron James has shown no signs of slowing down. The two-time NBA Finals MVP has produced stellar averages of 25 points, 7.2 rebounds, six assists and 1.3 steals per contest this campaign.
In a historical sense, James has ascended to 15th all-time on the NBA’s scoring list with 26,213 points (the youngest to do so). Though LeBron has experienced both the high’s and low’s upon the NBA’s highest of stages, the former #1 overall pick has become more than just a great individual player.
In the mix of one of his finest all-around seasons as a Cavalier, it is clear that not only has LeBron James “sucked it up,” he’s also transformed into a bonafide franchise leader.
[Image courtesy of J. Pat Carter/Getty Images]