Jun 14, 2013, 12:35 AM EST
LeBron James is the most questioned NBA champion ever.
The snickers and jeering reached critical mass after he struggled through the Heat’s loss to the Spurs in Game 3 of the NBA Finals.
Can he elevate his game on the biggest stage? Is he afraid of the moment? Why does he crumble under pressure?
It was almost as if nobody remembers he won a championship last year, taking Finals MVP in the process.
The title was supposed bring basketball immortality. That’s how the game works. Win a Finals series, and you’re forever a champion. Nobody questions Paul Pierce’s, Kevin Garnett’s, Ray Allen’s, Ben Wallace’s or Chauncey Billups’ legacies as winners. All five won only a single championship, and all five actually returned to the Finals afterward and lost.
Yet, LeBron faces a different standard.
He brought some of it on himself by how he left Cleveland for Miami and began talking dynasty immediately. His physical dominance and advanced skillset also lend themselves to greater expectations.
But at a certain point, we cross a line and demand too much of LeBron.
And then he reminds you why he might retire as the greatest player of all time, how he’s capable of meeting the most absurdly high standards
In Miami’s 109-93 Game 4 win over San Antonio, LeBron had 33 points, 11 rebound, four assists, two steals, two blocks and only one turnover. Nobody has hit those numbers in a game, regular season or postseason, in two years. Nobody has done it in the playoffs since at least 1986, as far back as Basketball-Reference.com’s relevant records go.
LeBron knows how he’s judged, and at this stage of the season, not only must he play well individually, he must win a championship. And he knew it was time address that head on.
This wasn’t like after losing Game 1, when LeBron reinstated his belief in his teammates and then proved it in Game 2. After Game 3, LeBron focused on himself.
“I’ll be better,” he said. “I’ll be much better tomorrow night.”
“I can’t afford to perform like I did last night and expect us to win on the road. It’s that simple,” LeBron continued. “So, I’m putting all the pressure on my chest, on my shoulders to come through for our team. That’s the way it is.”
Then he dug in deeper.
“I have to do whatever it takes,” he said.
”I will be better tomorrow,” he vowed.
And then he angled his self-demanding talk toward his teammates.
“I am the star, I am the leader,” LeBron said. “And they look at me to do things on the court, to make plays, and if I’m not doing it, I’m not doing my job.
Until LeBron attempted his first shot with 6:31 left in the first quarter of Game 4, the Heat had shot 2-for-6 (33 percent) and trailed by eight points. From then on, LeBron’s teammates shot 52 percent and outscored the Spurs by 24 points.
The Heat have gone 69 straight games without suffering back-to-back losses not because LeBron always plays better after losses – he often doesn’t – but because the Heat play better after losses. His greatness fits within their team concept, and generally, when he excels, they excel.
He’ll face even more pressure in Game 5, as his own great performance in Game 4 will raise the bar even higher.
There’s no guarantee he’ll meet the challenge, but there is absolute certainty he’s capable.
After Game 3, LeBron said he’d play better. In Game 4, he played better. It’s really that simple.
This series rests in his hands. It’s up to him whether continues bringing the focus necessary to play at his highest levels. If he does, LeBron will get his second championship and likely his second Finals MVP.
And then we can raise the bar even higher.
Dec 6, 2013, 8:00 AM EST
Over the years, Dirk Nowitzki has cemented his status as one of the most unguaradable players in NBA history. There have been better scorers, and there have been better shooters, but Nowitzki is second-to-none when it comes to getting his shot off. It would be easy to peg Nowitzki’s 7-foot frame as the sole reason…
Dec 6, 2013, 2:38 AM EST
Our nightly grades from around the NBA, or what you missed while singing Doe, a deer, a female deer… Ray, a drop of golden sun… Mike Woodson, coach New York Knicks. For a night, the Knicks looked pretty good and so Woodson can sleep without the Sword of Damocles hanging over his head. The core…
Dec 6, 2013, 2:11 AM EST
This is the Chicago Bulls that are hard to beat, Derrick Rose or no Derrick Rose. Since Rose went down with a torn meniscus the Bulls have struggled at both ends of the floor — they had been giving up 13 more points per 100 possessions defensively than they had with Rose. That was just…
Dec 5, 2013, 11:21 PM EST
NEW YORK – In a game that was supposed to be a lively and competitive rivalry contest between two teams who share a city and began the year sharing aspirations of contending for a title, the end result was to fans what the entire season has been for both the Knicks and the Nets —…
Dec 5, 2013, 10:38 PM EST
NEW YORK – The Knicks ended their nine-game losing streak with a blowout win over the Nets in Brooklyn, and early in the fourth with the game already decided Kevin Garnett and Andrea Bargnani got into a brief scuffle that resulted in both players being assessed technical fouls. Garnett is normally the one to blame…
Dec 5, 2013, 9:53 PM EST
Otto Porter could make his Washington Wizards debut this weekend. He has been out since before training camp with a hip flexor injury, but the No. 3 pick overall could get some NBA action soon. And teammate Marcin Gortat is worried about him. Jokingly. But Porter’s slight frame (6’9, 198 pounds) became a joke, as…
Dec 5, 2013, 8:51 PM EST
Dwyane Wade missed the Heat shootaround on Thursday, he was back at the hotel with what the team called “flu like symptoms.” That will now keep him out of the Heat’s game Thursday night against the Bulls, reports Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel. Wade has missed several games this season to rest his knees,…
Dec 5, 2013, 7:24 PM EST
Michael Carter-Williams is becoming must-see NBA TV — 17.7 points a game plus 7.3 assists a game playing at the fastest pace in the league. And don’t forget the 3.1 steals a game. But this weekend the early leader in the Rookie of the Year race will be sitting out with a sore knee. He…
Dec 5, 2013, 5:52 PM EST
Nelson Mandela, the iconic former president of South Africa who helped lead his nation out of the apartheid era to one of more equality, has passed away at the age of 95. The loss is humanity’s, but the world is better off for his full and purposeful life. NBA Commissioner Stern issued this statement on…
Dec 5, 2013, 5:19 PM EST
We know Kobe Bryant will not play Friday against Sacramento — he said as much and he’s not even traveling with the team to beautiful central California. So what about Sunday in Staples Center against the Raptors? Maybe. That’s as good as it’s going to get right now. Kobe spoke with reporters after his third…
Dec 5, 2013, 4:37 PM EST
The Boston Celtics may be on top of the Atlantic Division — at 8-12, but still on top of it — that doesn’t mean Rajon Rondo is rushing back to the court following ACL surgery. In his weekly radio interview with Toucher and Rich on 98.5 The Sports Hub Ainge talked about weeks not days,…
Dec 5, 2013, 4:12 PM EST
The Clippers lost to the Hawks because of their defense on Wednesday night — the Hawks shot 51 percent as a team overall, hit 12-of-23 from three, were able to get more than a third of their shots inside 8 feet and shot 64.3 percent on them. The Clippers starting five had a horrible defensive…
Dec 5, 2013, 3:15 PM EST
An NBA fan was handed this at an NBA game Wednesday (and his friend posted the photo on Reddit, where I saw it). It’s a “red card” warning for what is deemed abusive language or behavior to someone — a player, a coach, the referees or another fan. The warning is clear: keep it up…
Dec 5, 2013, 2:15 PM EST
The Houston Rockets’ offense has been one of the best in the NBA this season. James Harden on the outside, Dwight Howard inside and a good combination of role players has worked well. But not Wednesday night. Against the Suns the Rockets shot 35.2 percent as a team and 29 percent from three. It was…
Dec 5, 2013, 1:33 PM EST
The Knicks and Nets as engaged in a thrilling competition: Which team is the biggest laughingstocks in the NBA? Both can lay claim. They have oversized payrolls, cartoonish owners, coaches on the hot seat and underwhelming stars. The Knicks have seen Metta World Peace and Kenyon Martin feud, and the Nets have matched with Jason…
Dec 5, 2013, 1:22 PM EST
“I’m not done.” That quote sums up what Derrick Rose said in about 25 different ways during his first press conference since tearing his meniscus, an injury that required surgery and is expected to sideline him for the season. The press conference was streamed on CSNChicago.com. Rose was asked what he would say to those…
Dec 5, 2013, 12:43 PM EST
Anybody who tells you they know what Carmelo Anthony is going to do this summer is selling you something. And it’s something that doesn’t smell good. But we are going to be inundated with this stuff between now and July 1, when Anthony likely will become a free agent. The latest was ESPN personality Stephen…
Dec 5, 2013, 11:40 AM EST
Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert posted this before the Pacers game Wednesday night. I’d say he should get that looked at, but my guess is the Pacers’ trainer Josh Corbeil is not blind. If this were anything serious Hibbert wouldn’t be out there. And Hibbert said it didn’t hurt — he shot 6-of-9 from the…
Dec 5, 2013, 11:09 AM EST
Kevin Durant did it in a movie nobody really saw (Thunderstruck). Michael Jordan did it with cartoon characters (Space Jam). Shaquille O’Neal did it… poorly (Kazam). Now LeBron James is about to be the latest NBA superstar to head to the big screen and star in a movie. Well, we don’t know how big his…
Dec 5, 2013, 10:36 AM EST
With the Nets off to a 5-13 start in the East, there is a lot of finger pointing going on. Losing does that. That includes fingers at first-year coach Jason Kidd, who recently demoted lead assistant Lawrence Frank to be basically the highest paid video coordinator in the NBA. The Nets offense has been isolation…
- The Extra Pass: The shot that won’t fade away, and Thursday’s recaps 0
- Thursday night NBA Grades: Mike Woodson is allowed to exhale 2
- Knicks snap nine-game losing streak by crushing depleted Nets 5
- David Stern issues statement on passing of Nelson Mandela, players take to twitter 6
- Kobe Bryant sounds close to return, will not offer specific date 5
- LeBron says Wade is “getting that Kobe deal” in next contract. Should he? (64)
- The Extra Pass: Our awards at the quarter pole, plus Monday recaps (42)
- Michael Beasley finding a role, groove in Miami (41)
- Kobe Bryant dunks, looks good in Lakers practice; Friday return possible (38)
- Dwight Howard frustrated with Rockets’ effort in recent losses (36)