Why LeBron James' Offensive Game Deflects from His Defensive Prowess

Brendan Bowers@@BowersCLEContributor IINovember 16, 2012

MIAMI, FL - MAY 09:  Forward LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat blocks Guard Landry Fields #2 of the New York Knicks shot attempt in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs  on May 9, 2012 at the American Airines Arena in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
Marc Serota/Getty Images

LeBron James' offensive game deflects from his defensive skills and abilities because of just how spectacular he is scoring the basketball.

His assaults on the rim in transition are so explosive that we often forget how the fast-break ever started.

LeBron's ability to create scoring plays for his teammates on the break also work to deflect from his overall versatility on the defensive side of the floor.

To truly appreciate James' defensive game, we need to force ourselves to look beyond the offensive highlight.

Which is something that sounds much easier to do than it actually is.

An incredible steal overshadowed by a spectacular finish

The 360-dunk James uses to finish this play is what everyone remembers. 

During this particular broadcast, in fact, the replay actually begins well after he steals the basketball.

That steal, however, is actually the most impressive part of this entire highlight. It's a defensive play that only a handful of NBA players can even make. 

James starts from a defensive position on the left block. He reads the offensive action in the right hand corner, breaks on the play, and steals the basketball at the top of the key.

If he used a layup to score at the other end, the replay might have even captured some of that.

If not a '360' than it's a 'windmill'

LeBron uses dunk-contest-style finishes with such regularity that he makes everything else he does on the court appear routine.

In this video, James hangs two on the board after simulating a machine that runs on energy generated by a wheel of adjustable blades rotating in the wind.

These are the lasting images that LeBron burns into the memory of NBA fans.

We lose track of the fact that he's averaged over 1.5 steals per game in every season of his career. We also overlook the defensive abilities he used on this play to take the ball from Jared Dudley and create the turnover.

LeBron's high-flying offense makes us forget how exactly the fast-break actually started

LeBron doesn't start all of his fast-breaks by stealing the basketball.

He also comes up the lane defensively to block jump shots  (like he did in this play), then uses that deflection to create the run-out opportunity.

How often do you actually see someone block a jump shot, by the way? Let alone block a jumper, secure the deflection and lead a fast-break because of it?  

LeBron makes these types of defensive plays appear so effortless that we forget how rare they are.

As opposing players like Kemba Walker laugh at the idea of stopping his transition basket that results, we also forget exactly how the fast break ever started. 


LeBron deflects his defensive skills by creating for others off the steal too

LeBron isn't just scoring off the defense he creates. He's also creating scoring opportunities for his teammates.

In this play against the Philadelphia 76ers, Lebron dimes up Wade in spectacular fashion.

The move against Jrue Holiday leaves one of the quickest guards in the NBA totally crossed over. The pass is like something Magic Johnson would leave for James Worthy on the break.

Before that play could ever happen, though, James first stole the basketball from an All-Star in Andre Iguodala.

He didn't just capitalize on a misstep from Iguodala either.

James physically removed the ball from him like an All-State senior would do in a scrimmage against the junior varsity.