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LeBron James was good, but we expect more of him

Jun 10, 2011, 10:49 AM EDT

Miami Heat v Dallas Mavericks - Game Five Getty Images

The Miami Heat did not lose Thursday night because of LeBron James.

But they didn’t win because of him either.

That is ultimately the challenge that lies before him — he cannot be merely good, not if he is to meet the expectations put upon him,  ones he encouraged and welcomed — he needs to be legendary. And he has been nothing of the sort.

A lot of factors went into Dallas taking a 3-2 lead in the NBA finals, a lot of reasons the Heat lost — Miami’s slower rotations defensively early that let Dallas get into a shooting rhythm, Dallas then hitting 13-of-19 from three, and Dallas executed better in the fourth quarter. Again.

Those are not on LeBron, those are on the Miami Heat.

LeBron had a good game, he had an unassuming triple double if that is possible (17 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists). He tried to be more aggressive but Dallas continued to keep a defensive focus on him and so he made the basketball play every high school coach calls for and passed to the open man.

But we expect more from LeBron.

He is the best player walking the planet earth right now. The most gifted. With that we expect him not to be good in big games, we expect him to absolutely dominate. To impose his will and lead his team to victory. When Dwyane Wade got injured we expected LeBron to take over, to dominate the game in a way we have come to expect superstars to do.

He did not.

LeBron is being measured against our expectations of him, against the memories left us by other greats. That is a nearly impossible standard to live up to, but that is the price of his incredible gifts.

Right now, all great players are measured against Michael Jordan. A guy who, when faced with a team floundering in the finals, took over to put on heroic performances. In the last two seasons Kobe Bryant, though not as great or efficient a player as Jordan, tried to fulfill that archetype by getting angry, playing through pain and willing his team to rings.

In Game 5, LeBron fell well short of that standard. He was not angry dominant. And fair or not, that is the standard he will be measured against.

That can change. His legacy is far from defined. There are two more chances this season (if the Heat are to win) where he could prove greatness and lead his team to a comeback victory and a ring. Beyond that, right now we are at the midpoint of LeBron’s NBA career and to say that this series will define how we think of him in a decade is ridiculous.

But today, right now, LeBron James has not lived up to the expectations before him.

What makes a great dramatic hero — from great literature to a comic book hero — is a person who must grow, be better than even they thought they could be to overcome a resilient and seemingly unstoppable opponent. They must pass a challenge even greater than they expected. That is where LeBron James finds himself heading into Game 6. The chance to become greater than he had expected and to fulfill the destiny that has seemingly been before him since he was a high school sophomore. It’s not really fair to put all that on him, but he has never shrunk from welcoming that challenge. By going to Miami, he invited it.

We’ll see Sunday if right now he is capable of living up to that.

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  1. thetooloftools - Jun 10, 2011 at 10:59 AM

    Contrary to what people may think…. I’m not counting The Heat out…. but if this is LeBron’s KARMA for what he did to US here in Cleveland…. then his fate is sealed by the Gods.
    But this snake (The Heat) isn’t dead until the head is cut off.
    Don’t forget, he has an excuse for EVERYTHING.
    You wanted to be the center of attention LeBron… so how’s it tasting?

    • stevincinci - Jun 10, 2011 at 9:09 PM

      “What he did to US”. I thought it was a joke that people in Cleveland were goofy, but I guess not.

  2. heathavoc - Jun 10, 2011 at 11:08 AM

    I agree, alot of pressure is put on this 26 year old. He doesnt back down from any of it. He is playing a different game than in Cleveland, and last night for a second i saw James warming up to the dominent player he was in Cleveland. Wade being in the locker room gives James a different option. He still draws a triple team, and has a fast pass ball major leage pitchers would drool over. He scored in two possesions, and then Wade wad put back in, who wad hot. But it was time to share more and feed the hot guy, making it diffucult to get in your own rhythm

  3. Bryce - Jun 10, 2011 at 11:18 AM

    It seems like Lebron will never be enough until he Has 40 points, 15 Rebounds and 12 assists game in and game out…not to mention in the finals. A triple double is not easy so I credit Lebron for a least carrying his weight. The Mavericks are the better team but I’m not counting the Heat out yet either.

    • passerby23 - Jun 11, 2011 at 8:37 AM

      Disagree. Lebron was the best player in the playoffs coming into the Finals. He was playing at an extremely high all-around level and making big plays in the 4th quarter before this series. He doesn’t have to go for triple doubles every game and 40 pts for people to be satisfied, he has to make clutch plays when they count and be the presence that he is capable of for the whole game, not disappearing. If you’re calling him a great player, the greats rarely do that.

  4. cooptroop08 - Jun 10, 2011 at 11:20 AM

    @tooloftools, enough about what LeBron did to Cleveland. All he did was make Cleveland look good for 7 years. Let it go! Cleveland fans are so pathetic. Talk about karma, what did you guys do to be so awful in sports for the past 50 years?

    • thetooloftools - Jun 10, 2011 at 11:50 AM

      Let it go.
      Kiss my (|).
      He waited till all the good free agents were signed to make his “decision” so we had nobody to help us and make us look as horrible as possible….(and it worked) this coming from a guy who said “I will not rest until I bring a championship to Cleveland” because he knew how hungry this town was and still is for a title.
      We Loved this guy.
      Gave him everything he wanted as he and his buddies from Akron had input on ALL personnel decisions. LeBron WANTED EVERYTHING to go through him here in Cleveland. They drew up plays at the end of the game and he just did what he wanted anyway. So what does he do?… he bails on us and embarrasses us on national tv.
      Yea, just get over it.
      I can’t help it that Cuba North doesn’t have many natives… we in Cleveland are proud of our heritage.
      I don’t care that he left… it’s how he left that shows me he is nothing but an Akron Ghetto Punk.

      • chargerdillon - Jun 10, 2011 at 12:01 PM

        It’s people like you that make even the biggest Heat haters find a single reason to root for the Heat.

        Cleveland is a horrible place to live. Every sports franchise in Cleveland is an embarrassment and the only bright spot you’ve had in decades you’re completely trashing disregarding the fact he gave you nearly a decade of relavence which you wont have again for a long time.

        As a San Diego native who has lots of franchises in my city that havent won a darn thing just like your franchises in Cleveland, you need to learn to grow up and let things go. Lebron is not your lover, he’s a human being who has the right to make his own decisions, and you are a very hurt fan who needs to move on.

      • tndiver - Jun 10, 2011 at 12:23 PM

        Here, here tool!

        And lets not forget that everyone who sided with Lebron said Cleveland would not get him the help he needed to win, which was BS! The bigger problem is everyone knows what happened in his last playoff series against Boston, where he showed he did not have the heart or killer instinct to will his team to win.

        Sadly, we are seeing the same thing in the 4th quarters of the last couple of games. He disappears. I admit, he was great the first 3, but the game is 4 quarters.

        He doesn’t demand the best from his teammates or makes them better. I am afraid he will go down in BB history as someone with a lot of talent who could have done much, but didn’t have the heart.

        Best tweet I saw was “Don’t ask Lebron for change for a dollar. You will only get 75 cents because he as no 4th quarter!”

      • thetooloftools - Jun 10, 2011 at 6:47 PM

        I’m not taking the bait.
        You a holes arn’t worth my time.
        I wipe with your brains.
        Consider yourself flushed.

  5. chargerdillon - Jun 10, 2011 at 11:26 AM

    For the sake of wanting more basketball regardless who wins I hope it goes 7, these have been some damn fun games to watch. I’m still rooting for the Heat and I’m not counting them out yet



  6. thekingdave - Jun 10, 2011 at 12:12 PM

    Has an option in Dwyane Wade? Seems like Wade’s the go to guy.

  7. mauimike50 - Jun 10, 2011 at 12:36 PM

    anyone who calls themselves KING….gets whatever comes their way bad or good….personally,until KING James grows up and experiances some defeat in life.He will never grow up….and be a man.

  8. lebumjames - Jun 10, 2011 at 12:37 PM

    This is the best final series that I’ve seen in a while. The unknowns and unexpected is what makes it so. Everyone expected the Heat to dominate and have this in the bag by now.

    LeBum IS NOT THE BEST PLAYER ON THE PLANET!!!! It takes more that size and speed. He doesn’t have a dribble, can rarely create on his own, always passes the ball when there is little trouble, his moves are so ugly and ackward looking. The only thing he has that looks good is that powerful dunk when we gets that step on you and takes it to the rim. Dwayne Wade has looked tons better in the entire playoffs. Wade has been hanging back to give LeBum a chance and had to take over and become more assertive when LeBum failed. Dirk has been much better. Derrick Rose has been much better. How can anyone put this guy as the best???

    Game on the line, give Lebum the ball and all he knows to do is put his head down forearm forward and barrel over his opponents. He does not have a dribble, spin move, nothing that makes you go WOW! how can he be the best. give me a break.

  9. laserw - Jun 10, 2011 at 12:38 PM

    Unfortunately, LeBrick James is all hype – and all regular season. Much like Donovan McNabb would look like the best thing since Joe Montana, he choked when it came to big games. And LeBrick James is precisely that – a choker. He is Mr Regular Season. A player who gives you all the hope of success only to CONTINUALLY demonstrate that in the big games, he is Mr. Invisible.

    Yes, he can pull out Triple Doubles, but the sad fact is that a player with the flu can have more impact in a game than LeBrick did with a Triple Double. Sadly, even Dwayne Wade had more impact in this game four than LeBrick did. And when you needed LeBrick to fire up a key shot, he choked. You’ll never see LeBrick put any team on his back the way Michael Jordan did – tongue hanging out of his mouth and all – and will his team to victory. The closest LeBrick can come to willing anything is to issue mea culpa’s over his tepid play. The guy is a true pretender – a giant when games don’t matter and a teetsie fly when they do.

    And let’s dismiss this talk of Miami being in this. If it hadn’t been for the gift 3 pointer in game 3 at the end of the 1st quarter that even the Pro-Miami Announcers had to admit was a bad call, the Heat would be going home as the most over-rated team in NBA history. Save for that gift, the Heat are 1-3 in the last 4 games against the Mavericks, not 0-4. Think about that for a minute, pro-Miami pundits! And since the Heat has already lost at home to the Mavericks, the one thing you now have to hope for (and won’t find) is the Heart in the Heat. You see, despite having more money thrown at talent than anyone else in the NBA, the Heat have no heart.

    I hear all this talk about how the Celtics went up 3-2 over the Los Angeles Fakers and how this compares to this year – it doesn’t. The Celtics were worn down at that point. The Mavericks aren’t. And the Mavericks know that the Heat can show boat and act like they own this series, but the fact remains that the Mavericks can handle everything the Heat dishes out and can win the game no matter how far down they go. You see the Heat is the perfect three period team. Problem is they can’t play four periods and the Mavericks know that.

    So, let’s sit back and watch LeBrick phone in his performance in the next two games. He can’t rise above his own playoff mediocrity. And you know he isn’t being paid to carry anything. He has people who carry his bags and he isn’t going to carry any team (unless he can have an ESPN special and get paid extra to do it for 15 minutes).

  10. wrw0101 - Jun 10, 2011 at 12:47 PM

    If it goes to a game 7, I will have to take the Mavs. LeBron is gagging so much now, he will probably choke to death in a game 7. Living in South Florida I have been able to see much more of LeBron James than ever before, and I think he is extremely overrated. His game is full of flaws. He is at best an average jump shooter. He is below average 3 point shooter. For his size, he has no post game. And he cannot and does not know how to play without the ball. After this Finals Series we can officially stop calling him the best player in the world. Players better than LeBron include at least Kobe, DWade, Dirk, Kevin Durant, Paul Pierce. And never,ever use his name in the same conversation with Michael Jordan’s name unless the context of the conversation is to say, “he ain’t no Michael Jordan.”

  11. nfl25 - Jun 10, 2011 at 12:47 PM

    i just hope this ends the whole, wade is like pippen and lebron is like jordan. pippen was nowhere close to wade.

    dallas just out plays and out coaches a team that has 5 time more talent. i love watching a team like that. like i said to barkley yestreday, just cuz u go get all the best players and throw em on one team dont mean you are the better team, you are the more talented team, not better though

    • barkley4life - Jun 10, 2011 at 2:06 PM

      Comparing players is the whole problem…YOU CAN’T COMPARE ANYONE TO JORDAN…lol

      No different to the Kobe MJ comparisons…ITS NOT EVEN CLOSE…look at the stats look at the games….Kobe is a beast…Kobe’s first Finals SHAQ had 45 and 23 in game 1…MJ never played with anyone close to being as dominant as that.

      Wade is Wade..Lebron is Lebron….and to compare anyone to Jordan is RIDICULOUS.

  12. lebumjames - Jun 10, 2011 at 12:51 PM

    LeBum could’ve stayed in Cleveland and forever been compared to Jordan. The argument would’ve been that he never had any real help. and the 2010 playoffs where he checked out, people would’ve forgotten about it. But he opted to go to Miami and prove all his fans wrong. and if you all still think the Heat is going to win or that LeBum is gonna change into this image that his fans has fooled themselves into believing, then the mirage will subside soon after the MAVS win and as the next 2 yrs unfold with no heat championship, which will prompt Pat Riley to come back to the sidelines and that won’t help either.

    LeBum will be begging to come back to Cleveland.

  13. gs7101 - Jun 10, 2011 at 1:19 PM

    LeBron James cannot catch a break; he had a triple-double last night and his critics continue to downplay his efforts. If Nowitzki had a triple-double, no one would suggest he just had a “Good” game. The expectations for James have always been too high. Miami’s defense has been horrendous against the Mavericks. Miami’s headcoach, Erik Spoelstra, has gotten a free pass from the media throughout the playoffs. Personally, I feel he has been repeatedly out coached by Rick Carlisle during this series. He should be fired if the Heat don’t sweep the next two games. I cannot imagine the Heat losing against the Mavericks if Pat Riley was coaching this team. By the way, I’m not a Heat fan.

  14. lunasceiling - Jun 10, 2011 at 1:20 PM

    Let me get this straight: the second best player on the Heat has a triple double, and that’s not good enough? The only people for whom that constitutes “not living up to expectations” are those whose expectations were absurdly unrealistic in the first place. All you have to do to be able to appreciate LeBron’s performance last night (and the superb team effort by the Mavericks which exceeded it) is to NOT buy into the idiotic cult-of-the-superstar hype machine. For people who just love basketball, this series has delivered. Rooting for the Mavs, but mostly just appreciating the best Finals in a while…

    • dbick - Jun 11, 2011 at 9:00 AM

      It was the quietest triple double I’ve probably ever seen. And the fact that he’s the best player in the world, which he is, just disappears in the fourth quarter is the inexcusable part. If you took someone that’s never watched basketball and told them the best player in the world is in this game which one is it? They’d all either say dirk or wade (or they’d say the tall goofy looking white guy and the fast bald black dude since they never watched basketball). Regardless when you can’t even tell that Lebron is on the court in the 4th other than a garbage time layup and a block, there’s a problem. Inexcusable.

      • lunasceiling - Jun 11, 2011 at 10:21 AM

        While I agree that it was indeed a quiet triple-double, and that LeBron was largely invisible in the fourth (again), but that just reinforces my assertion that he’s NOT “the best player in the world” or even the best player on the Heat. The Heat remain D-Wade’s team. Hell, that’s not even a knock against LeBron…it’s just a reflection of how good Wade really is.

        And the best player in the playoffs has clearly been Dirk, anyway…

  15. nightmangler - Jun 10, 2011 at 1:27 PM

    It fustrates me to hear that LeBron is the beat player on earth. He is not the best Wade and Kobe is so much better than he is. I like LeBron i would have him on my team. But the best is far fetched. Wade and Kobe are the 2 best

  16. kygreen - Jun 10, 2011 at 2:27 PM

    I thought spotty play in the post season and fading in the 4th quarter WAS James’ legacy.

  17. diablito0402 - Jun 10, 2011 at 3:10 PM

    Yes people do you think 17, 10,10 is enough for the best player in history according to you heat fans yall crazy. Ohh yeah all this pressure put on this 26 year old, come on. Magic johnsons rookie season as a 21 year old had to start at center because the lakers center was injures 48 28 and 17 hows that for a game clinching performance in a finals game 5 or 6. Now thats big time people lebrick aint got any of that in him, not even close.

  18. savvybynature - Jun 10, 2011 at 4:17 PM

    “He is the best player walking the planet earth right now.”He is the best player walking the planet earth right now.l

    Kurt, do you really think you are qualified to make this statement? He is damn good, one of the best right now, et cetera, et cetera. But best on the planet?

    LBJ hasn’t even been the best player of this finals! Not even close. Wade AND Dirk have been superior.

    I’m sure you love bball and watch and read about hoops all the time, but what the heck are your qualifications for this statement? If they are “which player has the coolest highlights” then maybe you’re right, he is the best. If they are “which player does the most to help his team win a finals” then I don’t think he is the best.

    Dirk’s FT shooting will never make an awesome highlight, but imo that in addition to his other skills makes him a more valuable player than LeBron right now (granted LBJ is younger and has more upside, but right now, this season, I think Dirk is better). Wade plays just as good of D if not better than LBJ, has as much skill on offense, and is more clutch. Kobe was beat up this year, but he is still a great player and has a bball resume that LBJ is still dreaming about. So what the heck are your qualifications for calling him “best on the planet?”

    • ndirishfan1 - Jun 10, 2011 at 4:23 PM

      Agreed! If LBJ was called the “most talented on the planet” I would probably agree with the author. However, there have been no doubts throughout the Finals whose team it is, and sorry, when you’re not the go-to guy on your own team, you’re not the best player in the league.

  19. ndirishfan1 - Jun 10, 2011 at 4:19 PM

    Attention future free agents: When you get a major cable network to devote 60 minutes to televise the announcement of your free agent destination and you turn around 24 hours later and declare you’re going to win seven championships, NBA fans and media members will, in turn, expect the following things: A) For you to be the best player on your own team; B) TO WIN CHAMPIONSHIPS.

    When you demand everybody pay attention to you, we demand you to perform at elite levels.

  20. mogogo1 - Jun 10, 2011 at 4:32 PM

    We expect more from him because we’ve been told since he was in high school that he was going to be the best ever. And he certainly hasn’t done anything to temper expectations: He calls himself King, he predicts oodles of championships, he holds TV specials to let us know where he’s going to play, he let them put up a billboard the size of a building saying “We are all witnesses.” So, give us something phenomenal to witness–and that’s got to be more than 17 points in a pivotal game in the Finals.

  21. dirtybird2020 - Jun 10, 2011 at 8:35 PM

    The chosen one??? Please get that tattoo removed. Over rated, lebron blows! Take that crown off and give it to king wade!!! Not a champion see if jordan will sell you a ring you sellout!! True bum

  22. MVQB7 - Jun 10, 2011 at 9:37 PM

    Yeah that is what happens when you put all your eggs in three baskets and have no depth coming off your bench.

  23. redbear18 - Jun 11, 2011 at 2:57 PM

    It’s not because of Lebron, it’s because of Miami’s lack of depth and talent to back up the big three, and that is why Dallas is going to win out in the end.

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