Lebron James has found himself in the forefront of late game criticism yet again. The East All Stars displayed a dazzling comeback, led by Lebron who scored 23 of his 36 points in the 2nd half.
In the closing seconds of the 4th however, Lebron committed a costly turnover by attempting a cross court pass to Dwyane Wade instead of embracing Kobe Bryant's challenge and taking the final shot for myself. Is this fair or foul?
The media gets into a frenzy every time Lebron is in a position to demonstrate "clutch" capabilities. The bigger issue at hand is the actual definition of clutch or the profoundly overused and somewhat cliche term "Closer". In the final moments of the game, Lebron James had the ball in his hands, orchestrating the offense and enbabling his team to get the best possible shot. The media has unfortunately misconstrued the essence of late game execution, narrowly focusing on who physically puts the ball in the basket.
Kobe Bryant was seen yelling at Lebon in the final seconds, urging him to shoot the [Expletive] ball. Many believed this was an exemplification of Bryant's will to win and be the Alpha Male while Lebron demonstrated his lack of killer instinct. In reality, Lebron saw Dwyane Wade open, and was trying to make a play. Something he's been unselfishly doing his whole career.
"Kobe.. Yea he was telling me to shoot it. When I tried to throw it late, that's what usually happens and it results in a turnover. I wish I could have that one back" - James said
Let's say Lebron did get caught in the moment and deferred to his teammate Dwyane Wade in the closing seconds. Is that really a bad thing? Dwyane Wade is one of the most clutch players in the game today and put on arguably the most clutch finals performances in NBA history against the Mavericks in 2006. To default, by over-criticizing Lebron for attempting to pass in the final seconds, the media is undermining Wade's clutch abilities. Had the situation been reversed, and Dwyane Wade had the ball being guarded by Bryant with 6 seconds left, I'd bet the houses money he'd call for an iso-clearout and take the last shot.
The dichotomy will always exist when discussing Lebron's 4th quarter behavior. It just seems overbearingly trite and unfair at this point. If Lebron shoots and misses, he'll get blamed for not having the clutch gene and if he tries to pass to an open teammate, he'll be labeled as timid and scared of the moment . One wonders how and if the criticism will ever come to an end.