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Justice Is Served


May 14, 2010 1:27 AM

Big numbers can't hide King James' failure

4163380485_bc48350628_m.jpgCavaliers fans obsess about numbers when it comes to LeBron James. They talk endlessly about his numbers and what those numbers mean, and James has left those people with plenty of numbers to talk about.

He can show them his two MVP awards, his scoring title, his Olympic gold medal, and then he gave people these numbers Thursday night from the playoff game against the Boston Celtics: 27 points, 19 rebounds, 10 assists and nine turnovers.

The No. 9 next to turnovers is distressing, because the number was almost half of the 22 turnovers the mistake-prone Cavaliers compiled in their 94-85 loss, a loss that ended their season and fanned the rumors about what team James will be suiting up for next season.

Who knows how to figure out this Rubik's cube?

New York City is a strong possibility. Spike Lee would love to see LeBron James walking the streets on Broadway. How about Chicago, which is the pick of a few sage NBA insiders? The "Windy City" is a curious choice, no question about it.

Wherever James goes, he'll be dragging one number with him. It's a number he'd like to bury, throw a mountain of other numbers on top of it, hoping against hope that no one will notice it.

But when you're the game's king, when you're its "Chosen One," you can't bury a number that is defining your legacy. Push all those other numbers out of the way and stare hard at one. It's this number: zero.

For despite all the posturing about his greatness, about his assent to the glorified air that men like Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Bill Russell breathed, LeBron James has not a single championship to validate his greatness.

Zero, it's the same number of titles as "Joe the Plumber," my cousin Earl or Betty White has. Zero, it's the same number as Ted Williams, Charles Barkley or Dan Marino, star athletes who never could carry their teams to the summit.

And in what might have been his final game in Cavaliers colors, James didn't produce his finest effort, his bloated numbers on the stats sheet notwithstanding.

They were hollow figures, mere trivial asides to the bigger number on the scoreboard that sent James and his teammates, empty-handed all, to an early summer.

A championship isn't won alone, not in a team sport. But great players seem to will their teams to titles. They produce their best performances under the brightest of lights. They refuse to lose, giving no quarter regardless of what obstacles stand in front of them.

They ratchet their games to uncommon levels - as Michael Jordan, the man whose deeds cast a shadow over all that James has done, did countless times throughout his brilliant career with the Bulls.

James, too, has had more than his share of brilliant moments. One could argue that he has had more of those moments, at age 25, than Jordan did at the same age. But Jordan wasn't yet the lord of the game. His time would come later when Bird and Magic would both abdicate the crown.

The throne belongs to King James now - or so many who follow the game contend. He's the best there ever was. Just look at his numbers, because they'll speak to the man's greatness.

Numbers? 

Those damnable numbers. They do speak loudly; they always have in sports. Numbers, however, don't ensure any man - great or the near great; the bench jockey or the journeyman -- will leave this game with the only thing that counts: a title.

An NBA title was the objective for LeBron James this season. He said so from the start of the season and continued to say so deep into the playoffs. In his words, it was a title or nothing.

It came up nothing -- another zero. The MVP, the game's best player, the Olympian, the hometown hero, the star with all those gaudy numbers ... he closed this 2009-10 season for Cavalier fans with one disturbing number nagging at them like a toothache. They can't shake the fact that his "zero" remained in intact.

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