The champagne probably has not dried off of LeBron James’ jersey yet after his masterful triple double to close out the Oklahoma City Thunder and win his first NBA championship. There will be a lot of time to bask in championship glory throughout the offseason.
There is still another prize to be won though.
Team USA will defend its gold medal in this year’s Olympics and there is a lot of uncertainty about exactly who will make up the roster. But coach Mike Krzyzewski expects the league’s MVP and Finals MVP to be with the team in a few weeks for training camp and in London in late July for the Olympics.
“I know LeBron will play,” Krzyzewski told the Associated Press.
“I’m proud of LeBron and where he’s at right now, and I do think that when you’re that great a player, that great a talent, that you learn openly,” Krzyzewski added. “You don’t go learn in private. You’re out there while you’re learning, and while you’re learning, you’re going to be criticized for the things that you’re in the process of learning. … There’s some things you cannot learn unless you’re in that moment. Like, you can’t rehearse it.
“You can’t feel it until you’re in the moment of a finals, a gold medal game, a seventh game, a national championship. He’s been in two of those moments, and I think he’s shown in this series that he’s learned from those moments.”
Indeed, LeBron showed tremendous growth during the Finals, averaging 28.6 points per game, 10.2 rebounds per game and 7.4 assists per game. Those are other-worldly stats. And, like Krzyzewski said, James showed tremendous growth in the Finals and bouncing back from the personal and team disappointment of losing in the Finals in 2011.
If winning is addictive, surely James will be ready to go in a few weeks and bring home a second gold medal for Team USA, perhaps finally ready to take on a bigger leadership role on the team.
Kevin Durant seems ready to join him. In a disappointed Oklahoma City locker room, Durant told Alex Kennedy of HoopsWorld that he hopes he and LeBron can team up to win a gold medal this summer. The stars seem to be beginning to align for the Olympic team that has been beset by injuries.
This day, this moment is all about James though.
He became in this Finals series everything that fans hoped he would be. He was a bullish scorer, getting into the paint at will. A suffocating defender, pushing Kevin Durant further away from the basket and out of his comfort zone while putting the Thunder star in foul trouble on the defensive end. He was a willing and brilliant passer, double teams on him led to all those Mike Miller 3-pointers.
James was redeemed in this Finals series.
A second Olympic gold medal would just be gravy at this point.