LeBron James joined Dwyane Wade's team in Miami and became its biggest star. He won the NBA's regular season MVP and was instrumental in securing his first NBA title this past season. He streamlined all that into his second Olympic Gold this weekend and is now alone in a place where we always thought he should be. Unequivocally the best basketball player in the world. He is only now starting to scratch the surface as to what he can ultimately become.
Just as LeBron James is not the same player he was last season, he is even further removed from the player he was in Cleveland.
Critics can speak to the lack of talent that surrounded James during his final years as a Cavalier, but there is no denying the fact that he was not the guy he is now back then. He is confident in his abilities. Humbled from the first failure of his professional career and a champion as a result of the process.
He could have become this guy in Cleveland. A fact lost in the discussion of e-mails, All-Star teammates and the televised airing of the Decision. There was a time in LeBron's career where he did not believe in the totality of his impact as a player. That is my opinion at least, as an observer of his career since he has been in the ninth grade.
He believes in himself now though, and there is no stopping him. The multiple championships he spoke on upon arriving in Miami are his if he wants them.
I was asked by my colleagues here at the Crossover Chronicles to answer whether or not Cleveland is cool with his personal transformation that was capped by Olympic Gold yesterday. I think the answer to that is Cleveland saw all this coming before anybody else ever truly did. Cleveland believed that LeBron James was this player during a time that maybe even LeBron himself did not. All that is simply a footnote now though.
Following the win over Spain on Sunday, James spoke on the year he just completed (via Fox Sports Florida):
"It has been a great ride for me," James said. "I could have never scripted it this way. I've had many dreams about it, winning an NBA championship and then following it up with a gold medal."
Whatever demons he needed to exorcize he has. He is that leader, he is that clutch performer, and he is that champion. There's no ill-will from Cleveland towards any of that either, we just once wished he could've done all this from home.