|This SHOULD have been the defining moment of the series...|
Good job. Good effort.
After the Celtics epic Game 5 victory, concluded by this epic unintentional taunt of Lebron and the Heat, I pictured myself writing something very different than what I’m about to write. I imagined it as the most deliriously joyful two hours of writing any man, woman, or child could ever hope to experience. I wrote it dozens of times in my head, each time formulating new and cruel ways to incorporate “good job, good effort” in my never ending quest to mercilessly pound Lebron into the ground.
It wasn’t supposed to happen like this. I wasn’t supposed to be writing THIS column.
Flash back to Tuesday night, as Miami was solemnly trudging through the tunnel and back to their locker room. The four point defeat marked their third straight loss in the series, and put them in a seemingly hopeless 3-2 series deficit…but it also marked so much more than that. It marked the continued failing of the alleged “super team.” It marked the continued shortfall of the most hated man in the NBA, Lebron James. It marked the triumph of team over individual. It was everything I could have hoped for.
In that moment, as the Heat made their way to the tunnel, I doubt I could have named you a single thing on earth that could have made me happier than the defeated looks on the players’ faces. Not Walter White’s duffel bag full of cash, not the power to kick Colin Cowherd’s ignorant butt out on the street, not even a special Five Guys card entitling me to free food for life. And then came the shrill voice of some random kid, yelling “GOOD JOB! GOOD EFFORT!” repeatedly as the dejected Heat players walked past. Believe me; if happiness could be converted to alcohol, then I would have put Justin Blackmon to shame.
Even though it’s been less than a week since that wonderful night, the memory has already eroded beneath the pressure of a thousand bad ones. Memories of Lebron’s sullen look have been replaced with memories of off target Paul Pierce jumpers. Memories of D-Wade turnovers have been replaced with memories of Mickael Pietrus doing Mickael Pietrus things. And memories of thunderous KG dunks have been replaced with memories of Ryan Freaking Hollins playing for the Celtics in a deciding Game 7.
One thing that hasn’t faded, however, is “good job, good effort.” You see, “good job, good effort” was more than just a funny non-taunt to me; it was a very real picture of Lebron James’ career. The man has accomplished so much and been so dominant, but has fallen tragically short of the ultimate goal. He’s managed his brand and image so carefully, but has totally failed to understand what makes an athlete beloved. What could be a more perfect illustration for Lebron than “good job, good effort?” At least, that WAS the meaning of “good job, good effort” up until Saturday night…
As the Heat began to pull away late in the fourth quarter, “good job, good effort” was the first thing that came to mind. Not because I was *shocked* that Miami came back in the series. Not because I was *shocked* that Lebron played like an MVP. It came to mind because I knew that Boston had nearly done something incredible, but they just weren’t good enough. The Miami Heat, and especially Lebron James, were simply better.
I didn’t say it out loud, as the reality was far too painful to confront then and there, but I knew it. Deep down, I knew it all along, even if my emotion clouded it for a time. I tried to reason that Avery Bradley would have changed things, that a fully healthy Pierce and Allen would have turned it, or even that the Celtics had LOST the series more than the Heat WON the series. None of that is true, and I know it. It sucks, but I know it.
As for Lebron James, “good job, good effort” doesn’t begin to describe what he did to the Celtics. Though he still has an NBA Finals to win, and a large portion of redemption to gain in doing so, credit must be given where credit is due. Facing all the pressure in the world, Lebron stared down two elimination games (one in Boston) and singlehandedly won the series.
Game 6 – 45 points, 15 rebounds, 5 assists, 19-26 FG’s
Game 7 – 31 points, 12 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 1 block
But it wasn’t just the sheer numbers; it was how he repeatedly ripped the hearts out of the Celtics. It was the determined, almost angry, look on his face that we really haven’t seen from him before. It was the unrelenting assault on the basket that tore the Celtics defense to shreds time and time again. It was the 10 points in a 4 minute stretch of the fourth that put the Heat up for good. It was the near 30 foot three pointer that sunk a dagger deep in the Celtics’ chests. It was everything people have ever wanted from Lebron. Whether you think the criticisms of Lebron are fair or not, there is no denying how special he was in this last series.
Believe me; Game 6 and Game 7 are two of the most painful things I have experienced in sports. Yes, it hurts because of how much I hate Lebron and the Heat, but it also hurts because of how much I love this Celtics team. Eventually, after the pain wears down a little, I’ll write something on what this group has meant to me. For now, all I’ll say is that I loved them, and that I desperately wanted them to go out with this victory. Even if they lost to OKC (and they probably would have) a victory over the hated Heat would have been an incredible way to close out the Big Three Era.
Instead, all I’m left with is a sincere “good job, good effort.”
(AND GO THUNDER!!!!!!!!)