LeBron James says he's having fun. Says he's enjoying himself.
Sure doesn't look like it.
LeBron is doing his ultimate Superman impersonation. Faster than a speeding bullet (though not Russell Westbrook). More powerful than a locomotive. Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.
And in serious need of counseling, or at least a weekend trip to his Fortress of Solitude.
As LeBron continues his chase of that elusive championship, with Game 2 of the NBA Finals in downtown OKC on Thursday night, my only question for LeBron is this.
Where's the joy?
Where's the on-court bowling ball fun and the posing for fake pictures and the chalk shower he gave anyone sitting at the scorer's table? Where's the guy with a bounce in his step even when the clock wasn't moving?
LeBron is playing basketball like the burden of the Free World rests on his shoulders. Responsibility run amok.
He says otherwise. “I think I have a lot of fun with the game,” LeBron said. “This year in particular, I have a lot of fun or I've had a lot of fun with the game. I got back to what drove me to the game and what made me fall in love with the game.”
Yeah, he's a barrel of laughs. When the whole danged world is having a good time with Westbrook's goofy wardrobe, including Russ himself, LeBron stoically proclaimed that no, Westbrook did not set the fashion trend of lensless eyewear. LeBron disputed Westbrook's assertions with all the seriousness of C-SPAN.
LeBron's game is at an all-time high. He had a routine Game 1 – 30 points, nine rebounds, four assists.
Routine only compared to that Game 6 in Boston, where LeBron had 45 points, 15 rebounds, five assists and only seven missed shots. Which might not even have been his best game of these playoffs, considering he had 40 points, 18 rebounds and nine assists in a crucial Game 4 win over Indiana.
Truth is, LeBron never has played better. And never looked more miserable doing it.
He jumped ship in Cleveland in an admission he needed more help and landed on a superstar cruise ship in Miami only to discover that he needs more help.
The Thunder appears to have the better team in these Finals. Seemed that way going into the series, seemed that way coming out of Game 1.
This is Cleveland South (Beach). The Heat will go as far as LeBron can take it, and LeBron is taking the Heat about as far as one player can go.
He's got a beat-up Dwyane Wade and a beat-up Chris Bosh, and while I suppose that's better than Mo Williams and Anderson Varejao, that's not what LeBron had in mind.
LeBron needs Wade to be the Wade of yesteryear. The Wade of the 2006 Finals, and Wade wistfully talked Wednesday of how that's not going to happen. Not even South Beach can tame Father Time.
While LeBron looks at least the equal of the wondrous Kevin Durant, Wade does not look the equal of Westbrook, and suddenly the talent edge even at the top isn't Miami's. Who would have thought that fate would befall Miami so quickly when the Heatles formed two summers ago?
Wade has admitted he has passed the reins to LeBron. This is LeBron's team, and any talk otherwise – which has been rampant since they teamed up – now seems silly.
“Sometimes I go to him and tell him I need one of those games from him, I need one of those performances from him because he still has it,” LeBron said of Wade. “He knows he still has it, too, but every player needs a little kick every now and then, no matter how time tested they are.”
For a variety of reasons, LeBron went from carefree superstar to arch-villain. A plot right out of DC Comics if ever there was one.
LeBron didn't seem to mind, because it paired him with his buddy Wade and it put him on what everyone thought was an unbeatable team.
Turns out the Mavs were experienced and hot a year ago and the Thunder is hot and young this year, and suddenly those multiple championships LeBron talked about – “not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven…” – have been reduced to a singular goal. Can Miami win one?
“We live in a different world probably than most teams,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra understated.
And so LeBron plays brilliant basketball with the albatross of expectation around his neck and the awesome weight of responsibility on his shoulders, and while he's a better player than ever, he's doing it carrying a mighty burden.
LeBron has everything he wanted. Be careful what you wish for.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.