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Jason Douglas Lewis

Please do not argue with the Sports Editor.  That’s like counting on LeBron James to come through in the clutch.  It’s just a bad idea. Illustration by David G. Brown

 

Photo by Jeff Lewis

LeBron James was supposed to be the Chosen One, but once again he came up short when it mattered the most.  This time around he does not have a sub-par supporting cast to blame. Photo by Jeff Lewis


By Jason Lewis
Sentinel Sports Editor
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LeBron James is great.  Like Hall of Fame great.  Put him on any NBA team and he’ll take them deep into the playoffs.  He’s a walking triple double. 

But there are different levels of greatness.  There are Hall of Famers, and then there are iconic players.  As great as James is, he is no Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Bill Russell, Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, or Tim Duncan. 

After the NBA Finals, James isn’t even a Dirk Nowitzki, who pretty much took a band of rebels to the Death Star and blew that thing up.

James is not who he was built up to be.  He is not the chosen one.  He is not “the guy.”  He is not a closer.  He is not a leader.  He is a player who has shrunk in nearly every defining moment that he’s been in. 

Judging from the fourth periods in the NBA Finals, James is also a player who has no interest in putting his team on his back and willing them to win.  He averaged only three points per fourth period in the NBA Finals, while Nowitzki averaged 10 points. 

During Game 6, with the Heat on the brink of elimination, only one win from forcing a winner take all Game 7, during the fourth period James did not even act like he wanted the ball.  It was like the Heat were only playing with four players on the court. 

Down by eight points with about four minutes to play, James was just standing at the 3-point line, the ball was passed to him and he passed it away just as soon as he touched it.

James did not make a move to the basket.  He did not shoot the jump shot.  No, he was more interested in making sure that the ball was rotating properly.  Or maybe he was making sure that the ball was rotating away from him. 

On another possession James actually made a move to the basket, pulled up for what looked to be an open mid range jumper, and in mid air he passed the ball to another player. 

Instead of forcing the action, James shied away from it. 

When James could have lived up to the hype of being potentially the greatest player ever, he looked to pass the ball to somebody else. 

James is somewhat of a mix between Magic and Jordan.  He can be a facilitator like Magic, and a scorer like Jordan.  But he’ll never be as great of a facilitator that Magic was, and he is not aggressive enough to be a scorer like Jordan.  James is really a better version of Scottie Pippen.  Like Pippen, James is a point forward who can score, get his teammates involved, and play great defense.  But like Pippen, James does not have the killer instinct of the iconic players. 

Sometimes the best of both worlds is not a great thing.  James appears to be a jack-of-all-trades, but a master of none. 

Lakers great James Worthy may have said it best.

“Talent can get you a triple double, but I need a guy who can win, and I don’t see it,” Worthy said.

Game 6 is a great example of that as James put up good numbers.  21 points on 9-for-15 shooting with six assists.  He scored the most points, had the highest shooting percentage, and had the most assists on the Heat.  But with James on the court the Heat were outscored by 21 points. 

In comparison, with Dwyane Wade on the court the Heat outscored the Mavericks by three points, and with Chris Bosh on the court they outscored the Mavericks by four. 

James' 21 points were as meaningless as can be, which is why nobody is going to follow him.  He’s supposed to be the greatest player ever, and it appeared that Wade gave way to James at times, just to watch James become a passive player. 

What happened to the player James was against the Bulls in the Eastern Conference Finals, when he dominated the series?  He pulled a 180 in the NBA Finals and left his teammates hanging, which is why he is a horrible leader. 

Wade is the best player on that team, and he already has an NBA Finals MVP award from when he dominated the Mavericks back in 2006.  But there he was, giving way to James.  Wade should have done what James did not seem interested in doing, which was to take over the game and lead them to the title. 

In Cleveland, James was always able to blame a horrible team for his playoff flameouts.  But now that he’s formed a super team and proclaimed that the Heat were going to win multiple titles, he has nobody to blame but himself.  If he can’t win with Wade, who is a top five player in the league, and Bosh, who is an All Star, then who can he win with?

Jordan did not have another top five player on his team when he won six titles.  Bryant did not have another player of that caliber when he won back-to-back titles.  Duncan had some good players, but he was the only MVP type player on the Spurs when they won four titles. 

How much more does James need? 

Heat apologist are trying to make the case that nobody expected Miami to make it to the Finals in their first year together, so this season was really a success.  That is just a spin job, and not a good one. 

Anybody who said that they did not think that the Heat were going to make it that far really did not want the Heat to make it that far, but everybody knew that they would. 

The Heat held their championship parade before the season even started.  Of course they were going to make it to the Finals, and they were supposed to win it. 

The season was a failure, and James’ lack of heart or determination was the biggest failure of all. 

Look at Bryant’s reaction to losing in the second round of the playoffs.  He said that it was a waste of his basketball life.  But James, well he is going to go back to his great life while the rest of us have to wake up in the morning and still deal with our personal issues, according to him. 

How can an athlete dig himself into a hole, not realize that he is in a hole, and then just keep digging?  That’s exactly what James is doing.  The guy seems to be out of touch with reality, and because of that his image has taken a beating. 

Maybe it is really our fault.  We all bought into James being the Chosen One.  To being the next Jordan, and potentially better than Jordan.  We bought into the hype, and built James up into a player that he could possibly never be.  That’s a ton of pressure on a guy, and now the sporting public is reveling in his failures. 

But maybe it is not our fault.  James has played into the role of being this iconic player, taking the nickname “King James.”  James has become an iconic star, which has brought him great financial benefits.  James left Cleveland with the intent to win several titles in Miami. 

James has built himself up into this great player, but he surely is not the greatest player of his generation.  Shaq, Bryant, and Duncan are all greater.  And he certainly is not the greatest player on his own team.  Wade is.

Some players are defined on a higher level.  They are defined by titles.  Karl Malone, Charles Barkley, John Stockton, Reggie Miller, and Patrick Ewing are all great players who did not win titles.  But that does not matter because none of them were iconic players, so they are not defined by titles. 

David Robinson, James Worthy, Ray Allen, Jason Kidd, and even Dirk Nowitzki all have rings, but their careers would have still been viewed as a success because they are not iconic players either. 

But when a player is mentioned in the same breath as Magic, Jordan, Bird, Bryant, O’Neal, Russell, Abdul-Jabber, Chamberlain, and other iconic players, he better win some titles.  

Bryant needed to win a title without Shaq just to justify his career.  And he went out and made it happen. 

James also needs to win titles to justify the pedestal that he has been put on, but up to this point, he does not seem to be the player who is mentally tough enough to put his team on his back and will them to a championship.    

 

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Category: On the Soap Box


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