Chasing Down The Latest NBA News
I love Lebron James. I’m completely comfortable saying that. If you find that a bit weird to read, then I apologize, you obviously thought you were reading the blog post of a reasonable human being. Rest assured you are not. I am, in fact, a sports fan. I overreact, salivate over, and dissect the mundane in an attempt to make sense of the things I see happen in the field of play. I hold emotions and beliefs that are not always sane or even true. So I say again, I love Lebron James.
What I can no longer do after Wednesday’s game versus the Clippers, however, is say with a straight face that I trust him with the ball in his hands at the end of close games. Now maybe that isn’t quite right. I suppose I could trust him to make a good play for someone else with his passing abilities. But shooting? Definitely not. Driving to the rim? Even traveling? He couldn’t buy a bucket last night.
I have read, talked, and thought about whether or not Lebron is “clutch” until I am literally sick of the entire concept. The answer of course changes based on what happened the night before (and yes, I am aware that that raises the questions of why I would write an article about it. I have no answers.). Remember when King James eviscerated the Pistons singlehandedly? That sure seemed clutch. The loss to San Antonio was written off as Lebron needing more help, a narrative the also basically (and correctly) explains the rest of his time in Cleveland.
Hit the jump for the rest of Jordan’s piece…
At least until that last Boston series. Maybe it was unrealistic to expect James to win that series on his own. Ok it was definitely unrealistic. But it was expected for him to battle and fight and shed blood and remove the soul of Paul Pierce like Shang Tsung in Mortal Kombat, or at least look like he was trying to. He didn’t. And the world at large has been trying like hell to figure out Lebron James ever since.
Then he took his talents to South Beach, which is seen by many as an admission that he couldn’t do it on his own, which was smart of him to admit, because in this league, nobody does it on their own. Much like many predicted from the onset, they ran through the entire Eastern Conference, including series against Boston and Chicago where it seemed Lebron was hell-bent on dispelling any doubt that he could lead a team to a title. He nailed shots late in the fourth. He neutralized the MVP defensively when it mattered. He looked, dare I say it, clutch.
Then the Finals happened. And the disappearing act that there are still no clear answers for. Maybe Shawn Marion was in his head. Well, if you are the best player in the world, as many say he is, you don’t let things get in your head in the NBA Finals, do you? I mean, Dirk sure as hell didn’t. Then there was the weird condescending post-game interviews. He looked for all the world like a man who was cracking up. Like all the scrutiny was getting to him.
Now I know this is all ancient history and armchair psychology, and it’s been beaten to death by many people much more talented than I whether “clutch” as a talent or a personality trait even exists, but I feel compelled to write this anyway.
When Lebron James has the ball in his hands with time winding down, I fear for my life. I gnash my teeth and pull my hair out. I literally expect failure. It isn’t fair to James, and it isn’t what I want to feel, but I do. I feel this because time and time again when the pressure was on and it mattered the most, I have watched him fail. I mean, come on, I have on some occasions watched him appear to not even try. If you asked me point blank “is Lebron James clutch?” I would avoid the question with arguments that no one is really clutch, that players, by and large, shoot pretty much their same averages with the pressure on, and would likely seem a bit like an arrogant mook.
Secretly though, I would hate myself for the truth:
In the back of my head, I honestly expect this to go in. And I hate myself for that.
Kobe Bean Bryant is easily my most disliked athlete ever. This is largely through no fault of Kobe’s, and more the fault of certain overzealous Lakers’ fans I have ran across.
But even when its late in the game and Kobe is hijacking the offense, isolating, drawing defenders, looking at his teammates as if to say “Yes, you’re right, I am shooting this even though you are wide open”, and ultimately getting blocked, I can be found on the edge of my seat, pulling my hair and gnashing my teeth for an entirely different reason.
I’ve read and internalized all the articles claiming Kobe as clutch is a myth, that he misses more than he makes, that his teams are actually outscored during crunch time, and every other number you can bring up to prove what is a very sound point. I know that clutch is a lie your eyes tell you, like those pictures you have to unfocus to see or Megan Fox’s new lips. I am smart enough to know better. I know that Kobe will not score 40 a night for the rest of eternity, and that Lebron will not always crab dribble his way to missed free throws.
But I just can’t outsmart myself on this one. I believe in clutch. And If I admit that to myself, I have to admit that I believe Kobe is clutch and Lebron isn’t.
Now obviously this can all change. All it takes is the Heat making the finals again and Lebron scoring some points in a fourth quarter. This is a label that can be shed like any other. It is not permanent. But it is something that I hate to have to be admitting. I hate to have to write something where I admit that Kobe is mentally tougher than Lebron. I literally feel like I need to go take a shower.
God, the playoffs can’t come soon enough.
Jordan Akin is crying on his keyboard as he writes this. You can call him soft on Twitter @jakin1013.