— LeBron James has become the "Ghost of South Beach." Nobody saw this coming when the self-anointed King James made his decision to take his talents to South Beach last July. Immediately after he walked off the set after being interviewed by Jim Gray, LeBron became the athlete that most sports fans wanted to see fail.
That was an impressive title for him to take from Michael Vick, but he proved that he was immature and lacked humility. After his scripted televised decision, he next took part in a laser light show party where he predicted that he would win not just one, two, three, four, five, six or even seven championships as he danced on stage in front of a charged up Miami Heat fan base. King James must have felt that he had it all figured out before he spurned the fans of Ohio and raced to Miami to live the life of a global icon. Before he even showed up to training camp at Hurlburt Field in Florida’s Panhandle, James made it clear to everyone that he wanted the maximum amount of media attention that one man could shoulder.
Something obviously went wrong from the moment he packed his bags and abandoned Cleveland. It only got worse as he once again walked off the court in defeat Sunday night as the Dallas Mavericks defeated his Heat to win the NBA championship. I can’t remember a time when it has been this easy to blame an individual player for being the main reason why a team didn't reach its ultimate goal. James made it easy for the media and all sports fans to point their fingers directly at him for his pathetic performance in the 2011 NBA Finals. Everything that could go wrong ultimately went wrong for James and his posse as the Dallas Mavericks smashed them 105-95 in Game 6 of the NBA finals.
Where does James go from here?
I didn't expect him to win a ring this year but I've stated all season that he would eventually win multiple championships — at least three and possibly four — with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh as his teammates.
Now I believe that James might end up having a career similar to former Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly, who went 0-for-4 in Super Bowl appearances. Kelly, though, fought a lot harder in the fourth quarter of every Super Bowl than James did in fourth quarters during these NBA finals. He scored only 18 points when the game was on the line and looked nervous and uncomfortable when his teammates counted on him most.
I still can’t come to grips with the fact that LeBron didn't want to shoot the ball when the game was on the line. He obviously didn't want to attack the rim and go to the foul line, because he only attempted 20 free throws throughout the series and made only 12. He couldn’t figure out the defense of the Mavericks and never moved without the ball.
Was it fatigue or did he lose his edge because he finally came to grips with the fact that he had to defer to Wade? Whatever the case, the “Ghost of South Beach” disappeared in the clutch.
Much has been speculated about certain distractions in James' personal life, but who can be sure that these rumors hold any validity? James displayed terrible body language throughout the series and never seemed to be a vocal leader on the court while the game was in progress. He sure could fire up his team in the tunnel before each game, but I never witnessed him pulling his teammates aside late in any game to offer any encouragement.
He and Wade mocked Dirk Nowitzki's illness after a shoot-around by faking that they both had a cough. Nowitzki later described the act as childish and ignorant, and he was right.
I was also bothered by James' actions when he shared the podium with Wade after Game 6. When James was asked if he choked after the Heat were finally eliminated, he looked to Wade, who ended up deflecting the question and gave his own answer. I could go on and on but you get my point. He deserved to be elevated to a new level of villain and could never seem to control the public relations nightmare that engulfed his life during the two weeks surrounding the NBA finals.
I have spent most of my career covering the rise and fall of high-profile athletes. Tiger Woods, Barry Bonds, Peyton Manning, Brett Favre, Michael Vick, Manny Ramirez, Mike Tyson, Alex Rodriguez and other star players who seemed to be destined for greatness only to be sidetracked by personal transgressions or significant post-season losses that ultimately effected their legacy.
As James embarks on the off-season he can rest assured that he will never again be compared to Michael Jordan. He has already lost twice in the NBA finals and completely disappeared against the Dallas Mavericks. The King still has plenty of time to establish his legacy as a world champion, but nothing in the future is guaranteed.
Congratulations to the Dallas Mavericks, but the disappearance of James in the NBA finals will be a topic that is discussed for decades to come.