Former Nebrasketball star, Tyronn Lue, has a chance to save a damning indictment on the legacy of one of the greatest basketball players that ever lived.
Legacies, for better or worse, are often shaped by championships. We are 13 years removed from Michael Jordan’s last game played in Washington in 2003, but you don’t remember that. You remember that we are 18 years removed from Michael Jordan’s last championship in 1998.
6-0 in the NBA Finals for his career, that’s how he will be remembered. Not points per game, not shooting percentage, not anything from seasons prior to 1991. 6-0. That’s it.
No one doubts the greatness of LeBron James as a basketball player. The doubt creeps in when you compare him to the likes of Michael Jordan. The biggest difference in their resumes? 6-0 vs. 2-4.
You can nitpick the differences between the talents of the Jordan Bulls and the Cavs/Heat teams that LeBron has carried to the finals, but, like Jordan, what you will remember 18 years removed from LeBron’s last game will be the finals record.
Tyronn Lue took over as head coach for David Blatt midway through the Cavs season. He coached the last 41 games, leading them to a 27-14 record.
Lue and the Cavs breezed through the Eastern Conference playoffs to make it back to a rematch with the Golden State Warriors, and now he’s staring down the barrel a 2-1 deficit facing, statistically, one of the greatest teams the NBA has ever seen.
If Lue can bring Cleveland back and win a championship for a city that has not seen a title in any pro sport since the 1950s, that would be monumental. But it would do even more for the face of American sports right now, LeBron James.
If the Cavs lose, LeBron James’ finals record drops to 2-5.
Think about that. How do I explain to a future grandchild that I witnessed someone worthy of Michael Jordan comparisons, and all he will reply with is, “But grandpa…..2-5.”
One of Nebraska’s own can change that talking point.
In a state that jumps at the opportunity to claim anyone with even tangentially Nebraska roots, Lue seems to have been getting forgotten. But why?
This is a state that will tell you Malcolm X is from here, which is kind of true, he was born here in 1925 and his family moved to Wisconsin in 1926.
We celebrate the decent to above average pro careers of Rex Burkhead, Will Compton and Alex Gordon.
Now we have a four-year letterman, former pro, and now signal caller for one of the greatest players of all time… yet I haven’t heard much of the same homegrown chest thumping for Lue.
Maybe it is because he is overshadowed by the perceived control LeBron has over the huddle and front office.
LeBron came back to Cleveland with a laundry list of demands. He shooed away former head coach, David Blatt, at times. He lobbied to trade Andrew Wiggins away for Kevin Love, which the front office made happen almost immediately.
Perhaps Lue is seen as a puppet to LeBron, with James handling the strategic side of things, and Lue playing the part and answering the questions postgame. An article from ESPN’s Brian Windhorst in early May would argue the contrary, saying that Lue is doing the opposite of the former coach David Blatt…holding James accountable.
Maybe it is because of a generational divide.
Perhaps the older generation who saw Lue play for the Huskers and remembers how great he was, averaging 21ppg and leading the Huskers to a NCAA Tournament appearance in 1998, just doesn’t enjoy the NBA anymore and has zero interest in the finals.
On the flip side, a younger generation of basketball fans who grew up with LeBron and Kobe, and who are passionate about the finals, don’t remember a mediocre Nebraska basketball team in the mid-to-late 90s, despite its NBA-bound star guard.
Either way there is a game coming up this Friday at 8:00pm on ABC, that will feature Lue and the Cavs trying to make this series even at 2-2.
No one is telling you that you should care about this series, or LeBron’s legacy, or Lue’s chance at a title in his first season as head coach. I’m just asking the question, if you don’t, why don’t you? Someone that represents the university that makes most here ravenous with passion, has a chance to rewrite history on the most famous athlete of a generation.
Besides, it’s June in sports and baseball can wait until July.
I’ll be more interested watching if a former Nebraska hoops product can be a catalyst for changing a piece of NBA history. Partially for changing the fortunes of a city, but mostly for changing how we’ll remember an NBA legend.
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Brett Kane is a cross platform content gatherer for OmahaSportsInsider.com. He was previously a radio host and producer at AM 590 ESPN Omaha. Opinions are those of the writer.