LONDON – He didn’t have to be here.
He could have spent this summer lying on a beach somewhere as far removed from the game of basketball as humanly possible. He could have avoided the crush of being one of the four or five most recognizable people — Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, British gold medal-winning heptathlete Jessica Ennis, Kobe Bryant and royals Kate Middleton and Prince William — in this city right now.
No one would have blamed LeBron James for finally taking a little time away from his life’s passion. After a decade of chasing a legacy, and a championship, he finally secured his title, leading the Miami Heat past Oklahoma City in The Finals. James won his third NBA regular season MVP award and snagged a Finals MVP to add to his treasure chest.
With a chance to add a gold medal to his 2012 haul Sunday in the Olympic final against Spain, James is attempting to add an extra layer on top of a cake already drowning in icing. Only Michael Jordan has had a comparable season, piling up all of the aforementioned honors, and that came 20 years ago when he led the Chicago Bulls to the second of what would be six NBA titles and then spent his summer dazzling the world while leading the original Dream Team to gold in the Barcelona Olympics.
Even on a team filled with superstars, James is the headliner and biggest star, playing in a comfort zone and an elite level no one else in this competition or beyond can match.
And now he’s got a chance to cap his best year with gold in a rematch of the 2008 gold meal game in Beijing won by the U.S. Team.
“I don’t think you could have written this script any better for him,” said U.S. forward Kevin Durant, dazzling in his own right throughout this competition, and James’ chief rival with the Thunder during the NBA season. “I’m sure that would be fine for him, the way this has all played out so far. You can’t beat that right there.”
In just two short years, James has gone from the daunting task of trying to live up to expectations few athletes of any generation have ever had to literally winning it all.
Having his best year after his toughest year has to make this current run even for James.
“I would have hoped that this would be it,” James said of the moment, the year, when it all came together. “I would be able to compete for a championship, and win a championship in the NBA. And also be a part of this team and compete for a gold medal. If I would have had to map it out it would have been like this … it’s going in the right direction.”