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Michael Jordan in the clutch vs. LeBron James

Sep 7, 2011, 5:59 PM EDT

Dallas Mavericks v Miami Heat - Game Six Getty Images

This is not a slam on LeBron James. This is not about who is the better player in the clutch, Michael Jordan or LeBron. Or who is the better player, period (not sure that’s a debate right now).

It’s about the attitude Jordan had, what Jordan learned, and what LeBron James needs to pick up to take the next step.

Over at TrueHoop today, Henry Abbott pulled out a quote from Michael Jordan’s book “Driven from Within” where the legend talks about what was running through his mind at the clutch moments of games.

If I miss a shot, so what? Maybe even a shot that could have won a game. I can deal with that. If I don’t miss the shot, then I don’t miss it — we win. I can rationalize the fact that there are only two outcomes: You either make it, or you miss it. I could think that way because I knew I had earned the opportunity to take that shot.

Notice the lack of concern about the outcome — Michael Jordan has moved past the fear of failure, past the fear about what might happen. We can debate how clutch Kobe Bryant is, but Kobe is in that same mental place — he wants and feels he has earned that shot, and if he misses he will take the next one without hesitation. Kobe or MJ may miss, but they don’t think about the outcome, it’s being in that moment.

In the NBA finals (certainly not against the Bulls, however), in the big moments LeBron seemed to be thinking about the outcome not the shot. He was not in the moment. That may or may not have anything to do with preparation — Jordan talks about how he worked to feel as prepared as he could for that moment; LeBron works at his game, whether or not he really feels prepared for that moment is impossible for anyone but him to say.

But that is the step LeBron has to take, however he does it. It an ironic twist, he is not going to get the outcome he wants until he can move past thinking about the outcome. That is the lesson Jordan can teach.

  1. 00maltliquor - Sep 7, 2011 at 6:55 PM

    In other findings: The amount of light the sun emits vs. the moon…

  2. david8726 - Sep 7, 2011 at 7:47 PM

    I think that’s a very fair take.

    In the Eastern Conference playoffs against Chicago and Boston, LeBron seemed to have the attitude that Jordan had. He demanded the ball down the stretch and delivered. The biggest reason the Heat were able to defeat the team with the best record in the NBA in the ECF was because LeBron was fearless and devastatingly efficient in the 4th quarter of those games.

    But then something went wrong in the finals. He became more passive, focusing more on defense and passing. This approach worked when the Heat won games 1 and 3, but clearly cost them the game in games 4 and 5 on the road.

    The next time LeBron makes it to the finals, he just has to resolve to be more assertive. Demand the ball. We know he has it in him because he did this brilliantly VS Boston and Chicago.

    He failed in june this year. That doesn’t mean he won’t succeed in the future, though. A perfect role model for LeBron going forward is the man who beat him – Dirk.

    Dirk failed in the finals 2006 in humiliating fashion, but he became mentally tougher over time and eventually won it all. There is a good chance that LeBron can do the same thing.

  3. diablito0402 - Sep 8, 2011 at 12:53 AM

    Kurt going to his bread and butter, putting lebron on the same continent with jordan,, not fair to jordan,, not even worth it,,

  4. eazye76 - Sep 8, 2011 at 9:55 AM

    “This is not about who is the better player in the clutch, Michael Jordan or LeBron. Or who is the better player, period (not sure that’s a debate right now).”

    I am sure. It’s not a debate right now.

  5. denverdude7 - Sep 8, 2011 at 11:59 AM

    Leave it to Kurt Helin to find a way to put the word “clutch” and Bron-Bron in the same sentence.

    Nobody else on the planet has such a vivid imagination. The only way Bron-Bron and the word clutch should ever be in the same sentence would be if Bron-Bron stripped the clutch in his car.

    We all know it will never happen on a basketball court. That’s the reason Bron-Bron is in Miami. He had to latch onto Wade’s coattails to ever have a chance at a ring.

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