[REAL VERSION] London 2012

REAL VERSION

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LeBron James Is Having Some Kind of Year

James nabs Team USA's first-ever triple double in quarterfinal win over Australia

By Josh Alper
|  Thursday, Aug 9, 2012  |  Updated 8:07 AM EDT
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One day people are going to look back at some of the stuff that was written and said about LeBron James before he led the Heat to the title and wonder just what in the world was wrong with America.

That was one of the takeaways after James' triple double pushed the U.S. into the semifinals with a 119-86 win over Australia. It is the first triple double in the history of the U.S. team and it came with no turnovers by James against an Aussie team that made it this far because of their ability to force them.

James did anything that the team needed him to do, just as he's done all through the Olympics. He's been content to let the scoring go to Carmelo Anthony or Kevin Durant, because James keeps being the guy who steps up when things aren't going his team's way and nudging things back on course.

This was not the player we decided James was, but it is a player that he has become over the last few months. He wears it well as all of the discomfort that was evident in James at earlier points has been replaced with the kind of confidence that makes you wonder why the rest of the NBA is going to show up next season.

You could try to explain how The Decision, the shameful efforts in his final games as a Cavalier and the way that James wilted against the Mavericks painted a picture of a man who couldn't close games the way a winner closes games. Maybe it was because he cared too much about being a brand or maybe it was because he lacked the selfish gene that leads great players to take over regardless of who else is on the court, but it didn't much matter because we all decided it was the case.

And now we all look incredibly stupid for doing so. Starting with Game Six of the Eastern Conference Finals, James went on a remarkable run doing everything he was accused of lacking during his earlier failures by finally taking enough control of the games around him to bend them to his will.

James doesn't need to be the alpha and the omega for the United States team in the same way that he was for the Heat, but he's proving that his knack for closing out the opposition wasn't just a temporary state of affairs.

James has had games where he hasn't done much of anything, but any time the U.S. has needed something a little bit extra they have turned to James and he has delivered.

His nine points in the final minutes against Lithuania ended a scare, but they also made it clear that all the other stars on the U.S. team knew that they came somewhere behind James in the pecking order. That must be painful for some, but it isn't like they can make much of a case that they are more deserving of that spot on the ladder.

Against Argentina, a team that plays a chippy and confident game, James scored the first seven points of the second half to extend a one-point U.S. lead and start a lopsided quarter that allowed the U.S. to run away with the game. Another crucial moment, another James highlight reel.

Argentina is up next and you know they are going to bring sharp elbows and devious minds in their attempt to advance to the finals. Any U.S. weakness will be attacked and any flaw will be exposed by a veteran team taking its last shot on the Olympic stage.

In short, it's gonna be a rock fight. And it's a pretty good bet that we know the name of the guy who is going to throw the most important rock at the most crucial moment to save the day for the U.S. of A.

The LeBron Era is officially upon us, boys and girls, and the only question left to ask is how long it is going to last.

London 2012 is here. Get the top Olympic news, including what to watch, results and features on our local athletes here.

Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.

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