Johnny Holt, an eight-year-old boy, was thirsty late last night. Needing some refreshment, he wandered away from the lobby of the Rosewood Crescent Hotel in Dallas, where his father and some friends were celebrating the Mavericks’ Game 5 victory over the Miami Heat.
As he approached the vending machines he began to dig in the pocket of his jeans. Worn out and up past his bedtime, his thinking wasn’t as sharp as it could have been, and he soon realized that he didn’t have a single cent in his pocket. Just as he rounded the corner to the corridor that was home to the Coke machine, his hero intervened.
Towering over him was the one and only LeBron James. In an enthusiasm that only a child could possess and that overcame any semblance of fear, Johnny did the only thing that seemed appropriate at the time—he asked King James for a dollar.
LeBron smiled and reached into his much larger jeans pocket. A few seconds later he handed Johnny 75 cents. “Sorry kid,” LeBron muttered in a barely audible voice uncharacteristic of a man his size. “You should know by now that I don’t have a fourth quarter.” The boy was devastated.
I’m as disappointed as Johnny Holt right now. LeBron hasn’t had a fourth quarter or much of a game in general this Finals series. I’m not a Miami Heat fan, I wasn’t a Cleveland Cavaliers fan and I’m not a King James fan, but I’m a fan of basketball. As a fan, LeBron has caused me more frustration than anyone with his level of talent ever should. I want to see something that LeBron clearly does not want to be—a superstar.
Sure, his paycheck and entourage will forever characterize him as a celebrity, but I’m not buying it. LeBron is a great athlete and a great basketball player, but he could be the best.
I’m not going to compare LeBron to Michael Jordan or Magic Johnson or any of the other legends, because such comparisons are futile. James has done nothing to live up to such comparisons, and quite frankly it’s a bit of an insult to those guys to even mention him in the same sentence. But it should be LeBron that is insulted by such comparisons.
LeBron could be Magic with a much better knack for scoring and a much longer career. LeBron could be like Mike with a better eye for passing and a more diverse defensive game. LeBron could be the greatest point guard to ever play the game. He could be the greatest shooting guard or small forward to ever grace a hardwood floor. Or he could be the greatest power forward the league has ever seen. But we’ll never see that.
At the end of his career LeBron should be laughing that people actually compared him to anyone.
LeBron could be in the top five of every major statistical category when he retires. At the rate he’s going (90 games per season), a 15-year career with averages of 22 points, 12 rebounds, 7.3 assists, 1.7 assists and 2.2 blocks per game gets him there. None of those averages is remotely unattainable for the King.
But we’ll never see him consistently put up these numbers for that long. I don’t think LeBron cares enough about the game to stick around for 15 years. I don’t think LeBron will care enough to develop his game and actually improve to the extent he would need to achieve such numbers.
When I think back over the past five years of LeBron’s career, nothing stands out on the court. Seriously, nothing. That’s not a good thing for a superstar. I don’t think that LeBron has improved in any given area. He is more intelligent and is learning the game to a deeper extent, but I think that’s a byproduct of his vocation. It’s not something he has actually put effort into. LeBron refuses to develop a single low-post move. If he had one, nobody could stop him.
Of course, I don’t know that anybody can stop LeBron as is, except for LeBron. The single most confounding aspect of LeBron is watching him on the court. At any given moment LeBron can drive for a dunk—or a layup if he chooses to conserve energy.
I honestly think LeBron could average 40 points per game and still keep his current assist numbers. Far too often he settles for outside jumpers, plays hot potato with the basketball or drives to the hoop only to dish out to a teammate for a three instead of taking off for a dunk.
LeBron isn’t just having a rough series—he’s having a lethargic series. LeBron averaged nearly 19 shot attempts during the regular season; in this series he’s shooting 15. That may not be a drastic difference, but he’s not only shooting less often; he's also settling for poor outside shots and shooting a lower percentage in the process.
LeBron shot 8.4 free throws per game during the regular season; he’s only getting to the line 3.2 times per game in the Finals. LeBron isn’t being aggressive, and his team is paying for it. LeBron isn’t playing hard, and as a result the Mavs have stolen the series lead.
As a fan I can understand poor shooting nights, even a poor shooting series. I forgive “off” nights. I have a hard time forgiving players who seem to care less about the game than I do. I have a really hard time forgiving players who aren’t doing anything to improve their game. I have an even harder time forgiving players who don’t live up to their potential.
I’m going to have a hard time forgiving LeBron James.
LeBron could have scored 45 points en route to his triple-double last night, and I still would have been frustrated. But if he had played with the passion of Dwyane Wade or even Brian Cardinal, I would have been impressed.
I want to see the kind of crazy-eyed fire I’ve seen in Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, Kevin Garnett and even Allen Iverson. I want to see LeBron take over, because yielding to Wade is nothing but a cop-out and PR excuse. Before I can feel comfortably ranking him with an all-time great, he’s going to need to do all of this consistently.
I want to see LeBron have a great fourth quarter. But at this point, I’d take a decent first, second or third quarter.