We had seen this before. Detroit gets complacent and they drop a road game to a vastly inferior team. Up 2-0 in the best of seven series against the young upstart Cavs, the Pistons let one get away from them on the road in Cleveland. This happened against Milwaukee in the previous round and Detroit flexed their muscles in game four. But Milwaukee doesn’t have the chosen one, the king, LeBron James.
Down 2-1 and coming off a great performance (21 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists) LeBron was facing yet another obstacle, another Rasheed Wallace guarantee. Never one to bite his tongue, Rasheed guaranteed a win against the hapless Cavs. Rasheed busts out these "guaranSheeds" at least once during the playoffs, and his Pistons are 3-0 when he promised victory. Were 3-0.
Not a single person, myself included, thought that the Cavs would put up much of a fight against the well-oiled machine that is the Pistons. One game, maybe. LeBron could have some virtuoso game where they squeak out a win. But any more than that? Not a chance. The Pistons are too good, too focused, and too experienced to let the lowly Cavs scare them on their way to the NBA Finals.
Fast forward to before game 4. With the guaranSheed in place and the game three loss fresh in their minds, everyone thought the Pistons would respond with a commanding victory. LeBron James had other thoughts. He wouldn’t go down like this, not in his first playoff appearance. He wasn’t just going to take his beatings and call it a “learning experience”. LeBron wanted to win, to prove everyone wrong. Not in a Kobe way, in a Jordan way.
The Nike ad campaign insists we are all witnesses. LeBron is proving it. 22 points, 9 assists, 8 rebounds, and a 2-2 series tie later, I am a witness. Sure it wasn’t his best game statistically, going a measly 8 for 23 from the field and almost detrimental 5 for 10 from the free throw line but it was his best game so far in his young career. LeBron even admitted he wasn’t having a good night against “the leagues best defense” and “had to trust my teammates”. He becomes more Jordan-like as these playoffs go on. At 21 years old.
With exciting young players like Dwayne Wade, Carmello Anthony, Josh Howard, and Chris Bosh coming into their own from the 2003 draft class it is an exciting time in the NBA. But the man at the top of that draft, LeBron James, is the face of the NBA and the leader of the new golden age in basketball. He may not win a title this year; he might not even get out of this round, much less push it to seven games. But the win tonight against the Pistons is proof that we are all witnesses.