Last night saw the Miami Heat even their Series with the Indiana Pacers at 2 games a piece. Behind Lebron James’ 40 points and Dwayne Wade’s 30 the Heat upended the Pacers 101-93. Maybe even more important than that, we saw Lebron coming up clutch for the first time since donning a Heat uniform.
The notion of being a “clutch” player has always baffled me. How does one earn that title? Do you have to make game winners? What if you only do it in the regular season? How about if your someone who isn’t good, yet come playoff time your nailing 3′s with just seconds to go year in and out. Robert Horry was considered “clutch”. But nobody would pick them ahead of Lebron, Dirk, Karl Malone, or Charles Barkley to start a team.
Up until last years NBA Playoff run nobody would use the word clutch to describe Dirk. However, with just one playoff run, things changed for the German sharpshooter. Years of playoff failure fell to the bedside. A free-pass for the rest of his career. Because of that one magical playoff run, Dirk will never be considered anything other than “clutch”.
Same goes for winning and being “clutch” early in you career. Kobe Bryant has not won an elimination game on the road in 10 years. But because of the closer tag he earned from his early days nobody would ever dare say that Kobe isn’t clutch. Every talking head and blogger will tell you how he is a great closer. But what has he closed lately? Well other than Pau Gasol’s confidence.
That brings us to Lebron James. He isn’t considered clutch. In fact he is thought of as the opposite. As a choke artist. A player, when all the chips are on the line, will fold like a lawn chair. How did the man who once told Gilbert Arenas that if he missed his free-throw attempts, that James himself, would end the game.
James’ expectation levels are through the roof. People want him to be a cross of Jordan, Magic, Russell, and Bird. We want him to have the best jump shot, develop a dominant low post game, be an all world defender, get triple doubles out the ying yang, and be “clutch”. And no, I don’t think it’s nit-picking to ask the best player in the world to close out games. I do however think it’s unfair to tell him how he should close out games.
Lebron prefers to make the best basketball decision no matter the time on the clock. Whether it be the 4th quarter in the finals or the 4th game of the regular season. Unselfish on the court as a superstar comes, James would pass to an open teammate with the game on the line. Unfortunately for him, nobody ever seems to make the shot.
The lack of quality teammates from his time in Cleveland have been covered in great detail. People openly admitted he was playing with broken parts all around him. So when he became a free agent he took his talents to South Beach. While the way he(along with the other 2, who seem to get a free pass) handled it was wrong, he went their for the right reasons. To be surrounded by better talent and win championships. What did we do to him for this? We questioned his toughness, his desire to compete. Why would a man want to join his rivals to win a championship? You’re suppose to beat them to win the title, not join them. Because as we all know, if the goal is to win the title and the best way to do that is to join the best talent, you’re not suppose to do it! Well that is basically how we treated the situation.
This past off-season Lebron worked on his low-post game, a part of his game his critics complained wildly about him needing to improve on. So was it not music to the Lebron-haters’ ears when Reggie Miller bashed Lebron for asking all-time great Hakeem Olajouwon for help. Saying that as the best player in the world, he is supposed to get better by himself. Yes Reggie, asking the best people whomever did what you are trying to be good at for advice, is wrong. Hey carpenters apprentice! Yea you, don’t know how to cut the corner to that shelf to make it fit in the kitchen? Well don’t ask the guy in your union who has a great reputation, by all means, just figure it out yourself.
So last night Lebron went for 40 points, 19 rebounds, and 9 assists. In what was a must win game for the Miami Heat. He, along with Dwayne Wade(who admitted after the game it was James who got him going), carried the Heat on their back to a win. That is a clutch performance if I ever seen one. Well apparently not for everyone. Today we got critics that it wasn’t a game winning shot, in the NBA Finals, or anything else that would give Lebron credit for coming up big in a big game.
At one point nobody thought Jordan was going to win championships, until he did. Early in his career people thought Kobe was to selfish to win titles, until he did. Up until last year people thought Dirk was soft, until he won in the finals. Right now people think Lebron is a choke artist. Until he…..
Quickly I just wanted to apologize to people who were expecting a recap of Sunday’s game. I know some of you guys count on it and actually look forward to it. I had a death in my family and had no time to write a recap to the game. I assumed many of you already got your recap fix already, so instead I went with a topical piece concerning the series. I apologize to everyone who was expecting it. I would also like to thank everyone for their love and support.
Joseph Nardone is a Writer/Blogger for Sir Charles In Charge. You can follow him on the twitter machine@JosephNardone