It would be easy for me to say that LeBron James choked last night in the Miami Heat's 105-95 loss in game six of the NBA Finals. But choke is the wrong word here. To choke, you actually need to make an effort. LeBron completely shied away from the big moment in the fourth quarter. With his team's season on the line, King James sat back and watched as Dallas won their first championship in franchise history.
It was almost as if LeBron was leading a game of hot potato among his teammates. There were multiple times when James caught the ball in crunch time and gave it up without even glancing at the basket. Despite leading his team with 21 points, LeBron underachieved once again. What puzzles me is the fact that we're talking about the same man who dominated earlier in the postseason. Against both Chicago and Boston, James was Miami's closer. He stepped up in the big moment.
Although Dallas was playing excellent defense on the Akron Hammer in the fourth quarter, that alone does not account for LeBron's passivity. James was able to produce in crunch time against Chicago and Boston - two teams who undoubtedly play better defense than the Mavericks. LeBron James has the talent and physical gifts to score against any defense in the league. What happened in this series was 90% mental. King James had no confidence in crunch time during this series. Sure, he missed a few jumpers. Regardless, the supposed "best" player in the NBA should be able to shake off a few bad misses. He should at least be able to stay involved in the game.
Dirk Nowitzki possesses arguably the most unique skill set in the league. It was certainly on display throughout this postseason - just ask the Miami Heat. However, I am not ready to say that Dirk is a "better" player than LeBron. James' combination of size and skills matches if not transcends that of Dirk Nowitzki. We're talking about a man that's 6' 9'', 260, has quicks like Derrick Rose, and can finish like Vince Carter (the Toronto version). This man should have been able to match Nowitzki; he didn't even come close. When the game was on the line, Dirk excelled. LeBron cowered in fear.
The Miami Heat had to take their final exam last night, but King James was absent. LeBron left Cleveland because he felt that he would have a better chance to win championships with another team. Well, he had his first chance. "At the end of the day", the self-proclaimed chosen one still has as many rings as I do.
Next June is a whole year away. Will LeBron be able to handle another year of being the most scrutinized athlete on the planet? He sure couldn't this year.