I’ll certainly enjoy Tuesday’s Boston Celtics-Miami Heat game, but it won’t have the deed to my attention span. Last season’s Celtics-Heat opener owned my anticipation, attention and, later, my ruminations. I sat bolt-upright in a musty, saw-dusted sports bar, eyes bulging toward the TV. I interrogated the game for some kind of predictive meaning. I interrogated bar patrons for how they felt about LeBron.
LeBron, the interest generator. His ability to do so has almost come to define him. And yet, there isn’t much current buzz tailing James this season. Much of that is attributable to Lob City’s zeitgeist hijacking. The Heat are a known quantity, whereas nobody quite grasps the ceiling of a Chris Paul-to-Blake Griffin flying trapeze act. The Los Angeles Clippers' season makes for a new story, while the Heat are a sequel.
But there is another interest-sapping factor.
After Sunday’s Dallas Maver-Miami NBA Finals rematch, Brian Windhorst expertly described the empty feeling that came with a superb LeBron James performance:
“But despite the opponent, setting and marquee billing, this exorcised no demons. It was James playing without pressure, a reminder of both how good he is and how bad he was in that series.”
Last season was great fun for Miami, due in part to how seemingly every game was a litmus.
Can this team make the NBA Finals? Is this loss reflective of why these guys are losing losers? Does this win mean they “get it”?
There was a real chasm between those who believed Miami to be fatally flawed and those who thought them a super team. Playoff events dismissed the doubters, right up until the very end. Then, a shocking turn. LeBron faded out, fell apart, shrunk, whatever you want to call it. James was not himself, which according to some, revealed his true self. But if the final word on LBJ is only uttered in June, why should people stick around for the months of noise that precedes it?
The shadow of LeBron's postseason failure used to stir interest in his regular-season exploits. Today, it creates a sense of relative meaninglessness per his in-season accomplishments. In our zeal to make a championship the ultimate referendum on LeBron’s greatness, we’ve stolen intrigue from all that leads to it in this second Heat attempt. We've made him LeBoring.