The Odd Couple
One was born in Quebec, Canada. The other was born in Akron Ohio. One dominated the QMJHL out of the spotlight and lead his team to back to back President Trophies. The other was in the spotlight at a young age, was anointed the next one in his sport and routinely had his high school (yes, high school) games televised on ESPN.
One was selected 4th overall in the 1997 Entry Draft, and over time was being considered the next great player at his position. The other was drafted #1 overall in 2003 and took the NBA by storm.
After reading this, what in the world could Roberto Luongo and LeBron James possibly have in common?
More than you think.
When Roberto Luongo was traded to the Florida Panthers by the New York Islanders in 2000, Luongo began to show that he can be the next great goaltender of the NHL. Luongo showed the skill-set to make it happen. The knock on Luongo was a lack of a playoff resume, and many suggested that if Luongo goes to a contender, watch out.
Luongo supporters got their wish in 2007 when he was traded to the Vancouver Canucks. And despite solid outings in his first two playoff performances, Luongo was starting to be labeled as a goalie who was not clutch, and was never going to be the elite goaltender of his time that so many experts suggested.
LeBron James rolled onto the NBA scene in 2003, when he was drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers #1 overall, and overnight made the franchise relevant. LeBron rolled up the numbers, carrying the team on his back many nights, and got the Cavaliers to the NBA Finals in 2006-2007, but the Cavs were derailed by the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals. And as James ‘failed’ as a playoff performer in many people’s eyes up to his decision to sign with the Miami Heat in the Summer of 2010, LeBron was being labeled as a guy who may not ever win an NBA Championship.
Flash forward to June 9th, 2011. Both Roberto Luongo and LeBron James are in the Finals of their respective sports. Both will wake up today where both series are tired at 2-2. Both teams had tremendous pressure to perform once their playoff runs began. Vancouver won the President’s Trophy as the NHL’s best team in the regular season. The Miami Heat came together in the Summer of 2010 and were expected to win right away.
Luongo’s last two games? Shelled for 8 goals in Game 3 (although one would suggest why in the world wasn’t he pulled, you need to ask Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault why he didn’t make the move) and a lackluster 4-0 loss in Game 4 where he was pulled by Vigneault.
Lebron’s last two games? Miami did win Game 3 88-86, but Lebron had a pedestrian performance by his standards (17 points, 9 assists, 3 rebounds) and the media salivated over proclaiming Dwayne Wade is the alpha-dog of this team off of one game. Then Game 4 got even worse for Lebron, who didn’t drive to the hole, and at times honestly looked disinterested, and scored a playoff career low 8 points in a 3 point loss to the Dallas Mavericks.
Cue the LeBron haters, because they were out on full force that night and rightfully so.
Two great players in their respective sports. Two players talked about being the ‘chosen ones’ at some level in their leagues. Both players are in a Best-Of-3 series. Two players who have more pressure on them then anyone else on their team.
And both Luongo and LeBron need to get these two wins to exercise demons in part created by the critics.
Will they both get it done and earn Championships? Will one win and one taste defeat? Or will both fall short, and listen to more criticism throughout the summer.
Will Lebron force his old owner Dan Gilbert to reconsider that childish Comic Sans post the night of ‘The Decision’. Will Luongo come through with essentiely the country of Canada on his back and quiet even his harshet critics?
Boy, it will be fun to watch to see of this ‘Odd Couple’ can do it.