To be considered good in basketball, you have to be able to do all the intangibles that is required of you as well as be able to defend and shoot the ball. To be great, you have to do all those intangibles and tangibles at such a level that few in the league could ever hope to accomplish. To be epic, you have to be able to do everything at that extreme level and be able to do it when it matters, in the deciding last few seconds in a game.
So, using that as the scale in which to define those epic players in the NBA, it’s safe to say that the Miami Heat’s LeBron James is ‘just’ a great player. It’s also safe to say that James just doesn’t have that ‘clutch gene’ that sets apart the greatest that has ever played the game.
Now, before anyone goes spouting off that I’m just a bitter Cavaliers fan looking to get a small measure of payback for LeQuit….er, LeBum…um, LeBron, well I respond that I’m the perfect guy to question the ‘King’s’ ability to close out games since I was a witness (pun intended) to many a game where he just couldn’t seal the deal.
For such a physically gifted athlete, there is obviously something lacking in LeBron’s makeup when it comes to seizing the moment in the final seconds of games. He forgoes his many, many gifts and constantly puts himself behind the eight-ball with decisions that emphasize the weakest parts of his game. I cannot count the number of times I’ve seen him, ball in hand in the waning seconds of a close game, just dribble it at the top of the key before throwing up a half-cocked three that misses horribly.
A prime example of this came again Sunday night when the Heat were battling the new look New York Knicks in what turned out to be a very close (if ugly) game. Down one with less than ten seconds left, LeBron zipped past Carmelo Anthony for the potential game winning lay-up only to have it blocked by Amare Stoudemire. When the Heat got the ball again, James badly missed a 3 pointer to end the game, yet again clunking his way to another loss.
This lack of ‘clutch’ that LeBron continues to display is going to be the deciding factor in how many, if any, Championships the Heat win under the ‘Big Three’ because there are going to be games that come down to the wire in the playoffs and James is going to want the ball in his hands. He NEEDS the ball in his hands because, frankly, the fans and media have fattened up his ego to such an extent that the reality of his inability to make the crucial shots doesn’t occur to him.
So he will have the ball as the clock ticks down and his team down by one…or two. He will dribble it on the top of the key till the time hits about three seconds. Then he will explode into motion, moving his overly large frame in such a way that belies his size, and he will toss up a three as he’s off-balanced.
And that three will miss horribly.
That’s the facts because as great a player he is, and he is a physical talent not ever seen in this league, he just doesn’t have it in him to be epic. Call it a lack of focus or a lack of hunger, call it whatever you will, but in the end, with the game on the line, the last place I want that ball is in the hands of LeBron James.
Well, unless you’re a part of the other team, that is.