Why it’s time to give LeBron a break.
LeBron James’ refusal to take the last shot is once again the hot topic of debate. The King literally passed on game-winners in the All-Star Game and against the Utah Jazz, adding to a growing career list of crunch-time deferrals. How should we take LeBron’s recent end-game antics? More importantly, what kind of leader is LeBron? Two of SLAMonline’s bloggers weigh in with differing opinions. Check out Right Play, Wrong Time for the other side of this debate.—Ed.
by Adam Sweeney / @Adamstoneradio
There are a few certainties in life. There’s death, taxes and the guarantee that LeBron James will be criticized. The most recent opportunity to judge King James came last Friday night when the Miami Heat lost 99-98 to the Utah Jazz. And judge the media and NBA fans did, lest they miss their chance to bring into question everybody’s favorite trait, or lack thereof, of LeBron’s to focus on. That would, of course, be his killer instinct.
Down by one, James elected (as he is wont to do) to dish the rock to a teammate. This time James escaped a double-team by hitting Udonis Haslem on a perfect bounce pass for wide-open jumper.
I don’t need to tell you that Haslem missed the shot, but shouldn’t that be the focal point? It was Haslem who missed the shot, not James, and yet all of the weight and, pardon the pun, heat of the loss fell directly on to LeBron’s shoulders. Now I have been more than up to the task of criticizing LeBron James in the past, but it’s officially time to do one of the things that LeBron seems to do best. It’s time to give LeBron a pass.
Instead of focusing on a chance at “last-second glory” in a regular-season game against Utah, why are we not talking about the fact that James led the Heat back and put up a stat line (35 points, 10 assists, 6 rebounds and 3 blocks) most players would die for? After the jabs everyone took at LeBron for passing up a game-ending shot at the 2012 NBA All-Star Game, was LeBron taking a last-second shot against Utah going to change anyone’s mind about who he is as a player? Doubtful.
LeBron is having one of the greatest individual seasons ever, his team is in great position to go back to the NBA Finals (and may win it this time), and all it seems that anybody can do is gripe about his willingness to hit the open man. Time and time again he makes “the right play.”
Unfortunately for a player of James’ status, the right play and the play we all want him to make aren’t the same thing. By asking LeBron to take the last shot we contradict ourselves, and this is why; because we would be all over LeBron if he took that shot and missed it. When LeBron makes the statement, “I can’t win,” he comes off sounding petulant, but maybe there’s some truth to the idea. Maybe we are all asking too much of LeBron.
That’s not to say that Mr. James hasn’t had his fair share of missteps. Any player who embraces the monikers of “The Chosen One” and “King James” is asking for some judgment. We are all “Witnesses” after all, right? That’s what Nike told me, at least.
The man has seemingly quit in Playoff games at times and even LeBron admitted that he handled his move to Miami in all the wrong ways. That still doesn’t give us the right to talk out of both sides of our mouths when evaluating the career of the greatest player in the NBA. And make no mistake, he is the best player the Association has to offer. It would be far less tiring, for us and James, if we would ease up and just enjoy his game for what it is. If we took time to get to the heart of the matter, we would see that LeBron’s game isn’t even what really bothers most of us.
If there is any true hole in LeBron, to me it would be his need for acceptance. So many pundits want to compare LeBron to Michael Jordan, when he definitely is more like Oscar Robertson, but the athlete he is truly most comparable to is Tiger Woods. Both are transcendent talents who value the acceptance of fans to the point that it has shaken their confidence at times.
The problem with LeBron James is that he is so concerned with being loved and afraid of failing that he is unwilling to do the things that would earn our love. We could devote a list to illustrate the fear of failure:
• Leaves Cleveland and the burden of carrying a team or winning a title on his own to join a group of All-Stars.
• Refuses to compete in the Dunk Contest but fuels speculation over whether he will compete at some point.
• Chooses to pass the ball at the end of the game.
• Can’t decide whether he wants to wear a leather vest or denim jacket, so he wears both to 2012 NBA All-Star Weekend.
OK, that last one is a failure in itself, but you get the point.
Do all those points condemn James to the dissection we offer? Not really, and it seems odd that we act surprised when he takes a pass. James’ deferral to Haslem in Salt Lake City is nothing new, unless you’ve forgotten his pass to Donyell Marshall in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals. In that game, James hit Marshall with a perfect pass and Marshall also bricked the shot. Want to take a crack at who caught Hell for that missed shot?
Maybe we’re bothered so much by James’ selflessness because we have seen him go for the jugular before, when he single-handedly destroyed the Detroit Pistons in 2005. It is perhaps LeBron’s greatest moment so far and it pisses us off to no end because it teased us. We wanted then what we want now. Blood. LeBron? he wants fans.
“With so much evidence for and against a player like James, how could we possibly not debate about his habits,” you ask? It’s simple. Because all of this criticism is going to go out the window as soon as LeBron wins a title, which he will. Ask Kevin Garnett about that.
Face it. Asking LeBron James to develop a consistent killer instinct is like asking Tyler Perry to stop cross-dressing. It’s happened before but not as often as we would all like it to. But aren’t we all fairly confident of what LeBron James’ game consists of? His “Decision” alone said volumes about the type of player he chooses to be. He doesn’t want to be the guy who takes the last shot all the time. He isn’t made of the same stuff as Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant. So why do we keep trying to fit him for a crown he doesn’t want to wear?