LeBron James in the Clutch

LeBron James

Sensational player, he is King James because he is the king of the court. He is a physically gifted specimen and the most talented athlete let alone basketball player, in my eyes. The combination of speed, strength, and vertical ability is rare. His basketball I.Q. is exceptional, as well as his court vision and passing. He is a great ball-handler and an all-around player. He can post up, penetrate, score form mid-range and 3-point land. Defensively, he is all over the place and there is more than just steals and blocks. The guy is a tenacious competitor, he covers a lot of ground with his help defense and he crashes the boards. He flirts with triple-doubles routinely and he is simply a stat-freak. He is obviously on his way to the Hall of Fame. Statistically, he is posting similar numbers in Miami as he did in Cleveland. He took Cleveland to the NBA Finals, and he did come through in the clutch as a Cavalier.

Miami

Miami signed Chris Bosh and LeBron James because of who they were before. Bosh has had to make the biggest adjustment because he touches the ball the least of the big three, but James is expected to do what he has always done. Pat Riley wants to win a championship as a G.M. He developed Head Coach Eric Spoelstra but Riley still calls the shots. As he was in New York and Los Angeles back in the day, he is a control freak. That’s why the Heat have Coach Spoelstra rather than a big name coach. And Riley does not want to be proven wrong, he doesn’t want to coach again. All the traveling, all the stress, but my issue with Miami is this:

If LeBron James, arguably the best player in the world, is having mental issues with clutch situations then why aren’t they helping the guy? I’ll explain…

It Started As LeBron’s Issue

Look, James is a smart business man in terms on contracts and endorsements. He is an intelligent player on the court and can take over any time he wants. He absolutely deserves all the criticism. He is self-proclaimed and “King James” and embraced the nickname “The Frozen One.” He publicized and hyped his free agency signing, “taking his talents to South Beach.” It’s fair if you believe he removed himself from the MVP award since joining Dwayne Wade’s team and playing with another All Star in Chris Bosh. I get all of that, I’m with the majority of you that view not only James, but the Miami Heat as villains.

They are amazing to watch, what a show these guys put on. All 3 can score the basketball, and all 3 have won games in the final moments. The popular belief is that Wade should be the go-to guy and that Bosh is the 3rd wheel. I understand Miami trying to break James’ mental funk at the end of ball games, and he needs to dig deep by looking in the mirror and pushing himself to the next level. As great as he has been, he can still progress individually and this is how…

He can score from anywhere on the court. He has to realize that with Wade and Bosh on the team, he has it easier than he ever did in his entire career. He has to man up and take it upon himself and simply get it done. There’s no going around that, it’s on him and for all his big talk and big walk throughout the whole game he can’t close. This issue has become so magnified and such a big deal for him, perhaps to the point of exhaustion because he’s beyond frustration. As if Kobe Bryant confronting him at half court in the All Star game wasn’t enough. James dominated the 4th quarter and passed up a game-winning shot.

I’m at the point to where, he needs more help. It’s a mental thing for him, and you can only overcome that internally.

Now, it’s a Miami Heat Issue

Externally though, you are LeBron’s shoes: Conversing with Pat Riley, down to Coach Spoelstra drawing up a play, looking at Wade and Bosh in the huddle, and the rest of your teammates that know you won’t take the last shot. They know you will defer and everyone is in agreement that Wade is the finisher.

Riley wants James to overcome this and the regular season is the perfect time to do that, preceding the playoff stage. Miami lost to Utah earlier this week, when James and Udonis Haslem ran a pick and pop. James drew the double-team and bounce-assed the ball to Haslem, wide open at the free throw line. Although it’s a shot Haslem usually makes, he missed in the final seconds and the Heat lost. James passed up another shot at the end.

The Play

The play that Coach Spoelstra designed, was a 2-man game at the top, the pick and pop scenario with James and Haslem. Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh were stacked together on the right block, with Mike Miller in the left corner. Obviously, the play was designed for James to take the ball to the basket using a pick, or even pulling up for a jumper to try to win the game. Keep in mind, no disrespect to Utah, but in this situation nobody really knows who was defending him! And with players like Bosh and Wade who is known as a closer, he might draw the easiest defender of the 3.

Anyways, the game against the Jazz is just one of many examples and I believe James can’t do anything about it. When something gets to the point where it is so mental, it’s time to stir things up. I’m sure Wade, Bosh, and his teammates are trying to tell him the right things. I’m sure Riley and Spoelstra are force feeding this guy countless opportunities.

The Mistake

But why is it, that every time James has the ball at the end of a game, he’s at the top. He starts near half court, dribble to the 3-point line, and he makes a move to eventually pass it off?

Dating back to the Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson days, they were great closers. Today, Kobe Bryant is that guy and Dirk Nowitzki grew into that guy. Between Jordan, Johnson, and Bryant, you’re talking about assassins with killer instinct. They wanted the last shot, they lived for it, and they came through.

Okay, so James plays more like Magic than Michael, but that’s irrelevant when discussing the final shot. His problem of deferring is troubling and bothersome, but those guys also got the ball in positions to succeed. Yes, James should be able to do what he does all game long, he can do anything he wants from the top. But at this point, it’s all in his head and Miami is doing him no justice. They just put him at the top with the ball, over and over again. It has become so repetitive that it’s on the whole unit.

Solution

To me, Wade is the go-to guy that should take the last shot. But I’m not opposed to him passing to James or Bosh. Bosh should probably get more looks in the clutch because he’s an excellent offensive player. With that said, Miami isn’t going to revert to Wade during the season every time, so they force-feed James to get over the hurdle.

I get it, it’s the regular season so you work on things you wouldn’t be doing in the playoffs. If that’s the case, move LeBron to the wing, or the post, or the elbow. Not all of Jordan’s buzzer-beaters came from the same area. They should be mixing things up, putting him in a better position to succeed. Granted, he should be trying everything on his own, but now he needs the help and creativity.

James is having his best season in the post. Personally, that would be my immediate solution, Wade getting him the ball in the block. Keep it simple by putting him closer to the basket. My money is on LeBron James putting up a shot and scoring to win the game in that situation.

There are different things you can do, stop beating a dead horse because the weight of the world is already on his shoulders. As a die-hard basketball fan, sports broadcast and journalism student, someone that has played, coached, refereed, basketball has been part of my entire life in some capacity. To see this great talent and dominant player struggle is very frustrating, especially since the “big man on campus” will always get the blame. That comes with the responsibility, and I do think he needs to look in the mirror and man up. But when the issue is repetitive and under a microscope, there is more the people around him could be doing. He hears this stuff at home, when he goes somewhere public, at practice, everyday when he gets interviewed, probably at charity events too.

Reality

I’m not a fan of the Miami Heat. I have been critical of LeBron James because the nicknames he embraces, he over-hypes himself, says he will win multiple championships, etc. Maybe he doesn’t feel the sense of urgency in these moments, because he does make the correct basketball decisions. Time and time again, he has made the right plays when passing. But, the greats want the ball with the game on the line. He recognizes this and it bothers him, as it should. 9 years in the league, since he was 18, he has a ways to go before he retires so I believe he will take the next step eventually.

I love the basketball player that I see on the court, he comes to play every game displaying how great he is. Everyone would take him on their team, there’s no question about that. I’m confronting him to step up like the greats do, but I’m also pulling for the guy when he doesn’t play my favorite team. Repetitive shortcomings is the reason I’m confronting his coach and the team’s leadership. I never left my teammates or friends out to dry. I’m not going to stick around to spectate someone struggling to extensive lengths, people need help.

It relates to real-life issues: someone that fears going outside their house, it’s a big deal for them to get the mail. That would be a great day for them. Granted this is only a game and not as serious as that, but the correlation is evident. Everyone has their story, he is too great not to have a happy ending.

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