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On LeBron and Learning to Appreciate Greatness

May 12, 2014; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Miami Heat forward LeBron James (6) drives the ball during the third quarter against the Brooklyn Nets in game four of the second round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Barclays Center. Miami Heat won 102-96.  Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

May 12, 2014; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Miami Heat forward LeBron James (6) drives the ball during the third quarter against the Brooklyn Nets in game four of the second round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Barclays Center. Miami Heat won 102-96. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Two years ago, LeBron James submitted one of the greatest playoff performances of all time in Game 6 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals scoring 45 points, grabbing 15 rebounds, handing out five assists while simultaneously shattering the Celtics’ dreams of one last NBA Finals run with Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.

I have a vivid recollection of the first half of that game, because well, I’m a Celtics fan and LeBron was also crushing my dreams because I care about basketball more than one probably should. That first half — I didn’t watch the second half because I was too angry — was, and still is, both the most infuriating and incredible thing I’ve ever seen on a basketball court. Any chains the Celtics tried to shackle LeBron with, he had the key to unlock. And when he didn’t have the key, he broke free with pure strength. There was nothing the Celtics could do, and everyone knew it.

Although it took a while, I’m now thankful for that LeBron performance. Of course it sucked watching it, and it sucked the next game when the Celtics lost Game 7. No one wants to see their team lose; it’s the worst. But, and I didn’t appreciate it at the time, if you’re going to see your team lose, it may as well be while someone puts on a performance for the ages.

Sometimes it’s hard to realize you’re watching history unfold before you, because as a society we are short-sighted—especially in today’s Twitter dot com and social media age. But that LeBron performance two years ago? That was history; that was greatness. People will be recounting that game to their friends and children and grandchildren for years, decades to come. I got to watch (half of) it unfold live. And that’s pretty damn cool.

The stakes weren’t quite so high last night, but once again LeBron stared his old nemeses in the face, and broke their spirits with a 49-point, 6-rebound masterpiece. And once again, LeBron was creating content that would go down in the books as some of the best ever. I was there too, well not literally there, but sitting on my couch watching, just like last time. But unlike Game 6 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals, I was able to appreciate what I was watching as it was taking place, and there’s no doubt that would not have been possible if it hadn’t been for Game 6. From bad things come good things or something like that. I don’t know, someone probably has a more poetic quote to that effect, but you know what I mean.

So I guess all of this has been a long-winded way of saying that I’m glad I get to watch LeBron James play basketball. There have been billions of people on this Earth, and of those billions, he very well might be the best basketball player who’s ever existed. And we get to watch him. How cool is that? It’s incredible. I’m glad I reached the point where I can watch him and appreciate that fact. I hope all of you reading this reach this place as well—it’s sometimes unbelievable, sometimes frightening, but always awesome.

Jack Maloney