Originally posted on Bloguin Best  |  Last updated 12/1/11

There is going to be no getting around the LeBron James story once the 2011-12 season begins. Sure, the free agent hype surrounding Chris Paul, Dwight Howard and Deron Williams will take headlines during the season nationally. Those free agent campaigns seem to pale in comparison to the anticipation that was James' free agency in the summer of 2010.

LeBron opened himself up to criticism by signing with the Heat and the way he did it. If 2010-11 was about resentment and anger toward what James and the Heat did and hoping for their failure, the 2012 season might very well be about how James and his team respond to the Finals defeat. That may not satisfy all of James or the Heat's critics, but if we are talking about James' legacy in the league, the 2012 season might be the turning point.

James played the hero and the goat in the 2011 Playoffs. In the Eastern Conference Finals against the Bulls, James averaged 28.5 points per game, 8.3 rebounds per game and 6.8 assists per game in the four wins to close out the series. He had an other-worldly performance for the Heat to close out Game Five.

This was the postseason that James overcame his demons to defeat the Celtics and took over at times in the Conference Finals. James was set to have a big Finals series. It seemed that after a relatively easy Game One victory in Miami, James was set to lift the trophy and silence all his critics. He was finishing games and, most importantly, he was winning.

Then the Mavericks defeated the Heat in six games. They shattered the mystique surrounding this Miami "super team" and sent James into an offseason where just about everyone was questioning what he was really made of and whether he could lead his team to a championship.

Honestly, the answer to that question is probably not an "if" but a "when". James is too good of a player not to reach another Finals and not to get one title. There is no player of overbearing stature like Michael Jordan or Magic Johnson or Larry Bird to prevent a whole generation of players from winning a championship.

As it stands though, James' performance in the Finals was extremely disappointing. It must have been difficult to live with during this extended offseason. As a reminder, James scored 17.8 points per game, shot 47.8 percent from the floor, grabbed 7.2 rebounds per game and dished out 6.8 assists per game. Those are good numbers. But when you are scrutinized like James is, they are not good enough. James, fairly or not, took the brunt of the criticism for Miami's loss in the Finals.

So the story of 2012, now that James has gotten so tantalizingly close to a title, closer than he has ever been to the golden trophy, is how does James respond to this failure and this criticism? What will LeBron post-Finals look like?

 

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