There is a consensus that will tell you most people are not fond of the Miami Heat's "Big 3" and them coming together back in 2010 in pursuit of dominating the basketball landscape for the next decade. Since James, Wade and Bosh joined forces in South Beach, they have been to the Finals all three years and have walked away with two titles, and while you can continue to hate the super team that is the Miami Heat, you can't take away what LeBron James did throughout the playoffs.
It was James who picked his team up at critical moments and did what was expected of him. Even with those big moments, especially in the Eastern Conference Finals and Finals, LeBron's performance is always graded on a scale that many other players in the league today aren't. A scale where a player like Jordan is the high point, those who dislike him will point to Michael Jordan's legacy and tell him he's not good enough.
James had a platform last night to address the doubt and scrutiny surrounding him all season long, and he rolled with it.
"Listen, I can't worry about what everybody says about me. I'm LeBron James, from Akron, Ohio, from the inner city. I'm not even supposed to be here. That's enough."
With the weight of the world off his shoulders for one glorious moment, James had to be the most relieved person in the arena last night.
"Every night I walk into the locker room, I see a No. 6 with James on the back, I'm blessed. So what everybody says about me off the court, don't matter. I ain't got no worries."
LeBron will continue to have his critics and the Miami Heat will be considered an evil empire to many, but there is one thing some can say about him after this postseason. LeBron James could make any team a champion at any moment. Most of the 29 other teams in the NBA would become automatic favorites to win the championship with No. 6 on the squad.
There were moments this season where it was LeBron playing like it was 2007 with the Cavaliers. A team that made it to the Finals before being swept by the Spurs, with James carrying them on his back. Six years later, he got another crack at beating San Antonio and did.
He may not be at Jordan's level just yet, but he is currently the best player of this generation and is on his way.
Today and this whole week will be hard for Penguins fans. But here are some things that happened this season that will hopefully brighten up your day.
10. Dan Bylsma Handing Out Pizza to students in the Student Rush Line
9. Beating the Flyers in the First Game After the Lockout
8. Crosby's Hat Trick Against Ottawa
7. Chris Kunitz "Sock Monkey" Hat Trick
6. Ray Shero's Late Night Acquisition of Jarome Iginla
At the time it made you smile at least.
5. This Sick Goal By Tyler Kennedy to Beat the Flyers in OT.
4. Pens Erase a 4-1 deficit in Philadelphia to win 5-4
3. Jussi Jokinen's GW Shootout Goal in His Debut
2. This Malkin Goal Against the Lightning
1. Crosby's Lemieux Statue-Like Goal against the Islanders
All good things must come to an end.
Somebody once said that. For the 2013 Pittsburgh Penguins, the good times came to an end in the ugliest way possible.
Two goals in four games, no goals on the power play, and getting swept by a Boston Bruins team that many, even those in Boston, predicted would be eliminated by this stacked Penguins team. But not even that kind of talent could pull it together against Boston, and shocked the hockey world in six days. The hockey Gods must rest on the seventh day as well.
So, here the Pittsburgh Penguins stand. After a Stanley Cup championship in 2009, the Penguins have been a force in the Eastern Conference...during the regular season, but have failed to make a splash in the playoffs since 2010. This years playoff run was the longest since 2009, but with the talent Ray Shero brought in toward the end of a lockout shortened season, it was a once in a lifetime accumulation of talent that included captains from Calgary and Dallas. The Penguins became every betting mans favorite to take the Stanley Cup by April.
Although it was the Bruins who drove the final nail into the coffin, the Penguins were facing tough questions about their team going forward as early as Game 1 of the Ottawa series. Marc-Andre Fleury became casualty number one in the quarterfinals against the Islanders after another bad start to the playoffs. Game 4 of that series could be his final start in the black and gold, and when Shero stuck with Vokoun after the Pens 6-1 loss in Game 2, the exodus of Fleury was in full effect. With the final shot by Jarome Iginla into the hot glove hand of Tuukka Rask in Game 4, it was the last time fans would see that group on the ice together.
No doubt the men behind the bench, Dan Bylsma and his whole staff is on the hot seat, but the guys on the ice face different futures as well.
With so many unrestricted and few restricted free agents, line combinations will look very different for the 2013-2014 season.
Iginla, Morrow, Cooke, Dupuis and Adams are your unrestricted free agent forwards entering the summer.. Murray and Eaton defensively and next year won't be better.
Penguins Salary Chart
If the 2013 offseason isn't hard enought to swallow, 2014 will come with harder decisions in 2014. Your key UFA players in 2014 include Malkin, Orpik, Letang and Kunitz. You know that Shero will have to give two of those guys new contracts. Norris candidate Kris Letang did nothing to improve his chances at a new deal. So if the band is getting broken up this summer, next summer might be tougher to deal with.
So, pour a cold one for these Pittsburgh Penguins. You'll never see them all together ever again.
As Boyz II Men said: "It's so hard, to say goodbye, to yesterday."