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LeBron James: From “Decision” to “Decider”

May 27, 2011, 4:11 AM EDT

LeBron James Miami Heat AP

A year ago, the most stunning thing about LeBron James was what he decided. He elected to reject his home-state fans, spurning friends and teammates to join both Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Chicago. He went on a nationally televised special on ESPN in a plaid shirt with a neck beard and said the famous South Beach talents line. With one overly-produced interview with Jim Gray, James changed the course of NBA history, wrecked his own public image,  and made a bold statement. “The Decision” remains his most controversial move to date, a defining point in his career.

But Thursday night, it wasn’t what James decided, but how. Against the Bulls in Game 5, in a hostile environment down 12 with 3:36 minutes remaining, LeBron James decided it was over. There’s really no other way to put it. Dwyane Wade helped, but in reality, it was James. James simply chose to win the game. It was one of the most stunning examples of a player simply taking over since… Game 4 when James did it and Game 3 before that. James brought out an arsenal in Game 5 which didn’t require veteran savvy. James didn’t use tactical advantage or take advantage of a mismatch. James was just better.

I’m going to invoke Jordan here. Do not leap to the assumption the comparison is whole. Michael Jordan won six rings and did it as the alpha dog and is the best player of all time, yada, yada, yada. This is like comparing Jordan’s celebratory cry with Kobe Bryant‘s, or his mustache to fascist dictators. It’s a superficial comparison, not meant to intertwine the fire that makes Jordan the icon of basketball.

But the shots James hit in Game 5, the pull-up three-pointer on a hair-trigger release, the post-up fadeaway jumper, the barrage he unleashed? They were shots you can’t defend. They were just build on one player being better than all others. And that’s what made Jordan great, in the visceral.

You will hardly ever see a player take hold of a game like James did against the Bulls and shake it until all the money ran out. What’s even more stunning is James immediately came back and played to the exact same level on defense. Derrick Rose had no escape. When the game was on the line and Rose had the moment to seize and send the game to overtime and save the Bulls’ season for five more minutes, James blocked it (with a healthy assist from Udonis Haslem for freezing Rose on the roll to the corner). James intercepted Rose’s jump pass, a jump pass. He was everywhere, all at once, smothering the MVP and taking hold of the destiny he never did in Cleveland.

Yes, that will be the latest criticism of James. Why did he not show this effort in Cleveland? Where was this effort in Game 5 against Boston? Why couldn’t he have had this kind of heart when he wasn’t flanked by elite players? Valid questions all. (What is not valid is “Why couldn’t LeBron try like Derrick Rose?” Rose’s field goal percentage should show that sometimes effort without intelligence does not reap the adequate awards sought.) But the problem is that we’re a results-oriented society, and ten times over when it comes to sports. No one questioned Kobe Bryant needing Pau Gasol to win as the alpha dog or why Bryant couldn’t pass as exquisitely as he did in 2009 even if his targets weren’t as good. The result is what matters. And the results have shown that the best overall player in the NBA at the moment is LeBron James. Why? Because he chose to be.

The only questions left are how good, or better, James chooses to be in the Finals?

And, what does Dirk have to say about that?

Game 1 is Tuesday.

  1. Milton Galfas - May 27, 2011 at 7:03 AM

    Most of us celebrated ‘The Decision’ as a giant step forward for the NBA players against the plantation mentality that permeates the league and it’s announcers. Three brave black men determined their future and executed a brilliant plan to end the ‘masters’ dominance over them. It is about time someone freed the slaves and it is Lebron James, Duane Wade , and Chris Bosh. Congratulations.

    • digitalpoo - May 27, 2011 at 10:46 AM

      Shut up.

    • 1historian - May 27, 2011 at 11:34 AM

      about as ignorant a post as I have seen in quite a while – congratulations and thanks for the laughs.

  2. dbick - May 27, 2011 at 7:52 AM

    I’m still not buying Lebron as this teams “closer” ,or whatever you want to call it, because of one series. If I was a Heat fan I’d still want Wade to be taking the big shots late. How quickly we forget that during the philadelphia series he missed a huge shot that couldve one the game in a close out game. Got let off the hook again when he lost control of the ball vs boston late in the game. And even 2 games ago got an offensive foul late when the heat couldve gone up, but again was bailed out by the Bulls ineptitude. Still want Wade taking big shots late in games.

    • trueballs - May 27, 2011 at 9:13 AM

      I don’t think people are buying what Spoelstra has been saying all season, but it’s true. There is NO DESIGNATED CLOSER ON THE HEAT. Last night was even more proof. Do you think Spoelstra drew up 3 plays for LeBron and Wade to shoot contested 3s? What about that 4-pt play from Wade? They both have that killer instinct late in games and whoever makes the shot makes the shot. It’s that simple.

    • lswingly - May 27, 2011 at 1:02 PM

      The current comparison has always been Kobe. And Kobe has failed at closing more times than he’s succeeded. Lebron is no different. We all just watched him completely take over down the stretch of three games both offensively and shutting down the league MVP defensively.

      I suggest you stop framing your conclusions to serve your bias. Lebron has definitively shown that he is not scared of the moment and furthermore took on the moment and excelled. The man can close. Deal with it.

      • dbick - May 27, 2011 at 6:49 PM

        So are you saying all the things I mentioned didn’t happen? He didn’t turn the ball over late in game 4 vs the celtics? Didn’t miss a series clinching shot vs the sixers? and Also didn’t take a late charge in game 4 vs the bulls? Yeah he took over the last 3 games, but was bailed out repeatedly throughout the playoffs. If Boston doesn’t blow it’s last possesion, and bulls don’t absolutely botch it’s last possession everyones still talking about lebron failing in the clutch. I’m just saying we should hold off on claiming this guy is money late in games, when he’s clearly not there yet. He’s not even the best late game player on his own team.

  3. thereeldeel - May 27, 2011 at 8:29 AM

    Really? How can you compare this to slavery? Theyre all getting paid millions. The only thing those three have in common with slaves is their skin color. Damn I really hate stupid comments.

  4. themanchine - May 27, 2011 at 8:52 AM

    Why did he not show this effort in Cleveland? Where was this effort in Game 5 against Boston? Why couldn’t he have had this kind of heart when he wasn’t flanked by elite players?


    • barkley4life - May 27, 2011 at 10:47 AM

      He did show this effort in Cleveland moron…his teammates were Moe Williams Daniel Gibson and Anthony Parker….

      Hilarious how eerily similar Rose looked like Lebron vs the Celtics last year but he gets off the hook cause they don’t have enough talent….HAAAAATTTTEEEEERRRZZZZZ

    • hnirobert3 - May 27, 2011 at 10:48 AM

      Dude, the Indians are playing well. Stop stressing LeBron and enjoy the Tribe.

  5. coltsfanindc - May 27, 2011 at 10:00 AM

    amen Milton. Amen.

  6. crimhollingsworth - May 27, 2011 at 10:23 AM

    Yeah LeBron is just like Jordan. I remember when Jordan couldn’t win a championship on his own so he called Dominique and Ewing and they won 6 championships.

    • hnirobert3 - May 27, 2011 at 10:47 AM

      He didn’t have to. The Bulls surrounded him with good players. Kukoc is better than any player LeBron ever played with in Cleveland (don’t give me any BS about Shaq, he was a shell of his former self then).

      • dbick - May 27, 2011 at 11:15 AM

        The Bulls surrounded him with average to slightly above average players, other than pippen who truly was a really good player. Wade and Bosh are both better than anyone Jordan ever played with.

    • barkley4life - May 27, 2011 at 10:49 AM

      Yeah your right because Lebron had Pippen Grant Rodman Brian Smith Toni Kukoc Ron Harper on his team and he still lost….

      No I’m sorry you mean Jordan won championships with Moe Williams Anthony Parker Sasha Pavlovic Drew Gooden Donyell Marshall…..


      • dbick - May 27, 2011 at 6:51 PM

        that comment makes little to no sense.

  7. kingdavid56 - May 27, 2011 at 10:32 AM


    Really really brave what was brave about it. Was it like Rosa Parks not
    Giving up her seat on a bus? Was
    It like Dr. MLK leading the charge of the million man march? Come on man slavery? When have you read a book where slave owners paid the slave millions of $. I am fine that they decided years ago this was going to happen. But what about it was brave I ask again? I am sick and tired of players being compared to slaves, it’s not like they are being beaten to do a job. They chose to play BB, they get paid very well for it as well, if they don’t like it they can go do something else.

  8. mk2323 - May 27, 2011 at 10:49 AM

    Like I’ve said several times on here…can’t wait to hear everyone talk sh*t when LeBron and co. are hoisting the O’Brien trophy in a couple weeks.

  9. 1historian - May 27, 2011 at 11:39 AM

    There are those who hate LBJ with a never-ending hate and that is their problem. I’m no fan but what’s done is done.
    He has apologized for ‘The Decision’ numerous times. He left Cleveland because he had a chance to play with two other players almost as good as he is and he knew that the powers that be in Cleveland would never come close to getting him the caliber of teammates that he would meet in Miami. Get over it.

    Go Mavs

  10. coltsfanindc - May 27, 2011 at 12:48 PM


    check out 40 million dollar slaves by William Rhoden and may give u a diff perspective on what milton was saying. yeh the r getting paid. hez referring to the mentallity and process of teams and owners vs players. Take Kendrick Perkins this year. he wasnt given a heads up. just shipped out like property. everyone got mad at Bron for doing what teams do ALL the time. they dont let every player know what their intentions are b4 they cut, trade, or drop u. its rrefreshing to see those guys determine their own future. whether it results in a title remains to be seen, but they went where THEY wanted to go. not where some GM or owner wanted them to.

    • chicago240 - May 27, 2011 at 1:05 PM

      I saw Mr. Rhodes book. Just kind of a tough analogy to use to sell books. I guess that would mean the white, asian, and hispanic “slaves” in the NBA are similarly treated last I checked. The analogy does a disservice to those that actually suffered from the tragedy of slavery. I think most American’s would kill for the opportunity to be so poorly treated by the NBA owners. I mean it’s not like any other Americans ever had a boss that gave them the ultimatum of taking a transfer to another city against their wishes, right?? Please.

    • edweird0 - May 27, 2011 at 2:40 PM

      I couldn’t have articulated it better myself. Because so many of us are underprivileged in comparison to these athletes, we refuse to see past the paycheck. Your entire life you’re brought up with the notion that if you have more money than life will be easier for you. While this is true for the most part, we negate the fact that these athletes are essentially property. Just because you get paid X amount of money does not allow anyone to treat you as though you are nothing more than common property. When the your respective club lets you know just how valuable you are to them or otherwise, its easy to see the bigger picture. Players are nothing more than chess pieces, prized horses if you will.

      At the end of the day this is all fine and dandy, players except have to accept this when they enter the league. Its a business so you deal with it. But please don’t crucify these athletes when they decide to take control of the their professional careers just because you don’t agree with it and/or are a hater.

    • almzor - May 27, 2011 at 3:13 PM

      Yeah, because the Celtics spent two weeks having executives fly to Danny Ainge’s house to pitch why they should be allowed to trade for Perkins. Then they staged an hour long prime time TV special to announce the winner of the trade. Oh wait… that never happened.

      It couldn’t possibly be that we dislike LeBron for being self absorbed and naive, could it? After all, Bosh left his team in free agency over the summer, so did Boozer, Stoudemire, and many other players ranging from all stars down to bench warmers. LeBron had every right to leave Cleveland, and people with sense aren’t knocking him for that. Making a spectacle out of utilizing his right to choose job locations was tactless and juvenile. Everybody in America has the right to choose their workplace, it’s nothing to celebrate. If he doesn’t like the conditions in his profession he can switch just like anyone else. Also, please harp on how unfair life is to these millionaires; it must be really hard for them. We should feel sorry for them… no really, stop laughing, it’s hard!

  11. alltimeballa - May 27, 2011 at 1:04 PM

    Any time there is a battle against “the establishment” it has been compared to slavery. While slavery involved people loosing their lives, the root issue of slacery was that one group od people owned another group of people. The owners determined the worth of the slave based upon their ability to produce for them. They were the property of the owner. In order for many slaves to become free, they had to escape and many times were slain by the “former owner” for desiring freedom. It is easy to “thumbs down” any comparison to slavery because it seems to downplay the absolute demonic treatment that slaves endured. Those who are enlightened enough to look beyond a “paycheck” and see what slavery really mean now understand that capitalism is slavery…the problem is that now slaves aren’t just black folk!

  12. coltsfanindc - May 27, 2011 at 4:17 PM

    there r other hardships in life besides $$!! im sure none of them have to worry about bills, finances, or unemployment, but if u think $$ cures ALL problems, ur an idiot! And no one is asking u or anyone to feel sorry for them. LeBron made a poor “Decision” w/ that hour long special, but who made u or anyone else watch it.

    • almzor - May 27, 2011 at 5:49 PM

      Learn to spell before you start throwing invective around kid.

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