Warning, there are a few not-so-safe-for-work words thrown in this video:
We are born with a chance
We’re gonna rise above
I am gonna have my chance
We’re gonna rise above
We are tired of your abuse
Try to stop us it’s no use
–Black Flag – “Rise Above”
Back in 1981, Black Flag released their debut full-length album ‘Damaged’. The opening track, “Rise Above”, is one of the greatest punk rock anthems of all time. Whenever I am feeling beat down, overwhelmed, down in the dumps, or wallowing in my own pool of self pity, I can always put on ‘Damaged’ and by the time “Rise Above” is over, I feel energized, full of life, and filled with the will and resolve to take on the world.
For LeBron James, tonight is his chance to Rise Above. After sitting there for 2 days listening to the media and the fans alike rip him and his legacy to shreds, he can atone for it all tonight. And this is the beautiful thing about the NBA Playoffs. Whether it’s Kevin Garnett telling us “Anything is Possibllllllllllllllllllllllleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee” or the league itself telling us the NBA is “Where Amazing Happens”, the anticipation of the unknown combined with the possibility of greatness gives us more reason to believe than any other sport.
In no other major sport can one single player have a greater impact on the outcome of a game. Pitchers in baseball and goalies in hockey are close, but both positions are primarily defensive positions only. But in basketball, a player like LeBron can choose to lead his team on both sides of the ball. His fingerprint is all over a game. And that’s why I can’t give up on this team yet.
I have no idea what’s going to happen against the Celtics tonight. I’d like to think the LeBron James I’ve seen play night in and night out for the last 7 years will be the LeBron James we see tonight, but there are no guarantees. Still, none of the doubt or uncertainty is enough to dampen my spirits heading into this game. Perhaps time will prove I am merely playing the role of the hopeless fool, but I still believe in this team and I still believe that LeBron James is capable of delivering a Championship to this city. This season.
Look, we know there are problems. There’s nothing the Cavs can do as far as I can tell about defending Rajon Rondo. I see no answer there. Antawn Jamison isn’t suddenly going to be able to push Garnett around on defensive. Ray Allen is still the scariest pure jump shooter I’ve seen since Reggie Miller. Brian Windhorst mentioned in his preview that we could see some more rotation changes. As Scott so masterfully pointed out earlier this week, between game adjustments are where Mike Brown excels. I hope some adjustments such as reducing Mo’s minutes (although I would reduce Parker’s as well) and playing Jamison at the 3 to give Varejao more minutes defending Garnett while keeping Antawn on the court will help.
Maybe we’ll see less Shaq and LeBron on the floor at the same time. Perhaps Z and LeBron will share more minutes so Z can at least attempt to draw some defenders out of the paint a little more than with Shaq in there. Perhaps the Cavs will come up with a couple plays where LeBron actually receives the ball in scoring position below the FT line rather than just always handing it off to him at different points around the perimeter. Perhaps Jamario Moon and JJ Hickson will play a few more minutes.
Ultimately, though, there’s only one change we want to see. We want our LeBron back. We want the guy who most of us had unquestionable confidence in. We want the man who could sense whenever this team needed him to take over, and who would promptly then do just that. We want the passionate LeBron.
There’s a defiant streak within LeBron. I’ve seen it in him plenty of times over the last 7 years. He will not be dictated to and he has little care or interest in how others think he should play. He’s a self confident man who is stubborn in his beliefs on how he can best dominate games. That defiance can work one of two ways tonight. Either he decides to Rise Above the public criticism and reclaim his throne on top of the NBA, or else he can defiantly stick with this lethargic facade to the detriment of this franchise. It’s ultimately up to LeBron to decide.
As I said yesterday, I know something is wrong with LeBron. I don’t know what it is, and I don’t know if he’s going to be able to overcome it, but I am behind him 100% as a fan. I have to believe in him and support him because it’s the only way I can in good conscience expect him to return the loyalty back to me in the form of a colossal Game 6 performance. And no, I am not so arrogant as to believe that he cares about one individual fan such as myself or that if he goes out and dominates this game it will be because I was there cheering for him all along the way. I guess the point I’m really trying to make is just that there are still plenty of reasons to support LeBron and the Cavaliers and to have confidence that this team can still win.
For some, tonight’s game is battle similar to Armageddon. I’m sure plenty of people across this great country believe Bill Simmons that this could be the End of Professional Basketball in Cleveland. When Kareem left Milwaukee, the Bucks didn’t die. When Shaq left the Magic, Orlando didn’t lose their team. So I’m not ready to get all post-apocalyptic on you over this single basketball game. Sure, if the Cavs lose and LeBron leaves, the franchise returns to mediocrity and insignificance. But there will still be plenty of us who still care and cheer for this franchise. So for tonight, I’m only concerned about this one game and I can leave all the hyperbole and embellishment about the future for another time.
Even Game 7 can be a thought for another time. All I want is for one night….tonight’s game only….for not just LeBron, but this team as a whole, to dig deep and find the fire within themselves to Rise Above all the distraction, negativity, doubt, pressure, and criticism and remember to just play basketball the way they are capable of. Everything else will take care of itself. I’ve always said that in the game of basketball, as long as you have the best player on the court, you always have a chance of winning. No matter how stacked the odds are against the Cavaliers, I want this moment to be our rallying cry. May Game 5 be our Alamo. May this series be our version of the 2004 ALCS where our demons and curses are exorcised forever. In the flash of a moment everything can change forever. Rise Above, Go Cavs!!
(Scott edit: Just a heads up, readers. I”ll be live on WMMS between 4:30-5p to discuss the Cavaliers with the kind folks at The Alan Cox show. Tune in to 100.7 or stream via WMMS.com!)