LeBron James joined Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami promising multiple championships. But the Heat lost in the 2011 NBA Finals then lost three straight to trail the Celtics 3-2 in the 2012 Eastern Conference finals. LeBron was labeled a choker who didn’t deliver in the clutch.
Then, he turned in a performance for the ages – 45 points, 15 rebounds and five assists in a victory in Boston.
How did LeBron summon that level of focus and execution?
LeBron on Instagram Live:
My mentality was, if we lose, Pat Riley may break us all up. And I didn’t want that. It might be the quickest breakup in basketball history. And not only might they break it all up, my legacy is going to take a huge, huge hit if I don’t go out here and perform at an all-time high. Win, lose or draw, I had to be focused. I had to lock in and lead us to victory. Didn’t know if it was going to happen that way, but that was my mindset.
I don’t know whether Riley would have broken up the Big Three.
But LeBron is absolutely right about his legacy.
That game was the beginning LeBron joining an elevated class of greats. The Heat went on to win the 2012 title, and they won again in 2013. LeBron – who also won a championship with the Cavaliers in 2016 – became known as someone who rose to the occasion in the biggest moments.
This is why it was so incomplete for Kevin Garnett to claim the Celtics broke LeBron. They definitely left LeBron reeling in his first stint with Cleveland. But, just a couple years later, Boston saw firsthand how he was stronger than ever before.