Get over it and appreciate greatness of LeBron James

King James II

When he needed to hit jumpers, he hit jumpers. When he needed to play defense, he played defense.

And when he needed to be at his best, he was at his best; in fact, better than anyone in the world.

You can no longer question his heart or desire or ability to perform in the clutch.

LeBron James is a winner. And maybe now you'll start to like him again.

James took a lot of grief when he signed with Miami in 2010. Understandably, basketball fans were turned off by his egomaniacal television special to ditch his hometown team, the Cavaliers, in order to "take his talents" to the glitz of Miami.

After bragging about all the titles the Heat was going to win, James was humbled his first season in Miami when the Heat lost in the NBA Finals to the Mavericks.

Instead of feeling sorry for himself or lashing out at his haters, James went to work on becoming better, and that led to an NBA title last season and another, even more impressive title this season. And he squeezed in winning Olympic gold between those two.

If you don't like LeBron, it's time to get over it.

The whole TV special was three years ago. And you cannot possibly fault him for taking advantage of free agency, which was well within his rights. He isn't a whiner on the court. He's a good teammate. He plays a clean game. He shows grace in losing and class in winning. And, by all accounts, he is a good guy off the court.

So what is there not to like?

Maybe LeBron James has fewer haters today. He should.

For those who still don't like him, I've got news for you: He's not going anywhere, and he might get even better. Might as well jump on the bandwagon and appreciate one of the greatest players of all time.

Legacy intact

The Spurs' legacy didn't take a hit because they lost Games 6 and 7 on the road to the Heat in the NBA Finals. A victory in either game would have given the Spurs their fifth NBA title in 14 years. That, obviously, would have been special, and winning this season would have been the most impressive of their titles.

Still, a loss doesn't diminish what the Spurs have accomplished. It doesn't take away from coach Gregg Popovich's (right) legacy as one of the best coaches ever, and it doesn't erase what Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and, particularly, Tim Duncan have accomplished in their careers.

In fact, I don't know that San Antonio's reputation would be any different today had the Spurs won. This is still one of the better runs in recent NBA history, and a loss doesn't really change that. They weren't even expected to reach the Finals, let alone win it all. And had the Spurs won, it's my guess that most people would have remembered the Heat for choking instead of giving credit to the Spurs for winning.

Those in San Antonio might never forget how a fifth NBA title slipped through their fingers, but as far as an overall legacy, the Spurs remain respected.

Best line

"You're killing me, Smalls!"

That's one of the iconic lines from the baseball cult-classic film, The Sandlot, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary. David M. Evans, who wrote and directed the movie, said he hears that line constantly from fans of the movie about a group of kids playing baseball in the summer of 1962:

"I was walking through Denver International Airport and some harried dad with a squirrely 3-year-old son was just walking through the airport and he dropped his bags right in front of me and he turns to his kid and says, 'You're killing me, Smalls.' He was just begging him to please behave. And I look at him and he's looking at me like, 'What's your problem?' And I said, 'That's my line.' And he goes, 'Yeah, yeah … great line and great movie.' And I go, 'I know!'

"So I told him and he didn't believe me. And I sent him some posters and DVDs and stuff and said, 'Man, I'll give you stuff, but no one is going to believe this happened to you.' And, occasionally, he'll email me and go, 'Yeah, another friend saw this poster and they don't believe me.' "

Biggest hire

Longtime CNN reporter Soledad O'Brien has a new gig, joining HBO's Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel. Aside from reporting original stories for Real Sports, O'Brien also reached an agreement with HBO that gives the network the first look at projects done by O'Brien's production company, Starfish Media Group.

O'Brien's debut on Real Sports will be Tuesday when she reports on Iraq war veteran Todd Vance, who has overcome an addiction to drugs and alcohol as well as post-traumatic stress disorder to start a mixed-martial arts program that helps other veterans struggling after their war experiences.

A hard decision

The Bengals will appear on HBO's Hard Knocks for the second time in five years and, according to reports, only one other team showed serious interest in appearing on the show that takes a behind-the-scenes look at a team in training camp. (We don't know which team that was.)

I can't understand why more teams wouldn't be interested.

Yes, I know that many coaches are such control freaks that they don't want to give unlimited access to anyone. Teams also are paranoid that organizational secrets might be given away. However, I've watched every minute of every episode of Hard Knocks over the years and cannot remember one instance where a team might have put itself at a competitive disadvantage because of something that appeared on the show.

If anything, the series often portrays coaches, players and teams in a good light or, at the very least, in a more human way.

Isn't that a positive thing?

"The feedback we got from our experience with Hard Knocks in 2009 was outstanding," Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said in a statement. "Our fans enjoyed it tremendously, and we're happy to try and provide that same experience again."

Three things that popped into my head

1. He isn't getting a lot of credit, but the Heat's Eric Spoelstra is a heck of a coach. And don't say he's good just because he has LeBron James. That's like saying the only reason Phil Jackson was good was because he had Michael Jordan. Besides, most coaches win because they have fantastic players. But the coach still has to be good to win back-to-back titles.

2. Speaking of coaches, do you realize that 12 NBA coaches have been dismissed since the end of the season? That includes coach of the year George Karl (Nuggets, at right) as well as playoff coaches Vinny Del Negro (Clippers) and Lionel Hollins (Grizzlies).

3. Dick Vitale is a genius. Just 11 minutes before Game 7 of the NBA Finals between the Heat and Spurs, Vitale went on Twitter and predicted the Heat would win 95-88. That, indeed, was the final score. To which I say: Ohhh, ohhh, are you serious, America? That's incredible. That's awesome, baaaaby.

tom jones' two cents

Tom Jones can be heard from 6-9 a.m. weekdays on WDAE-AM 620 and reached at (727) 893-8544 or tjones@tampabay.com

Get over it and appreciate greatness of LeBron James 06/22/13 [Last modified: Saturday, June 22, 2013 10:55pm]

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