LeBron James needs to heave up a game-on-the-line shot! I do not care if he has to go 1 on 5 to do this. It really doesn’t matter right now if he gets a clean look at the basket but I say he heaves it from mid-court if he has to. Please, just attempt one to appease the basketball ‘know-it-alls’.
He needs to do this so that the otherwise great statistical season that he his having – averages of 28ppg, 8rpg and 7apg, with almost 2spg while shooting over 50% from the field and over 42% from distance – does not become somewhat tainted by all this talk about a lack of late game heroics.
Before I go any further, lets take a look at some stats – not the perception that one has from seeing LeBron pass a possible game winning shot during this years (2012) All-Star game, and most recently the March 2nd game against the Utah Jazz in which he – again – opted to make the pass rather than take the shot. The fact is that LeBron has actually taken ‘game-on-the-line’ shots before and has actually made quite a few in his esteemed career. According to stats gathered by the good folks at 82games.com, from the 03-04 to the 08-09 season, LeBron has actually taken 31 ‘game-on-the-line’ shots and has made 17 of them; that is a respectable tally of 34%. It was also noted that Kobe Bryant has the most ‘game-on-the-line’ misses during that span.
The notation about Kobe proves that fans have a penchant for remembering the great ‘makes’ over numerous ‘misses’. They also have knack for taking note when a great player continuously passes up these ‘greatness’ opportunities. This is the risk of perception that LBJ is toiling with – that many fans and pundits alike will keep harping on this issue because they are witnessing a great player who seems to be building a reputation as a player that defers to others, when taking the last shot should be something he innately craves.
All the greats have this innate desire to want the ball during the closing moments of a game. Michael Jordan seldom passed up an opportunity to be his teams closer – he used his superior athletic and leaping ability to create a enough room to elevate over his defender for a shot. Whether contested or not, almost everyone expected and wanted Jordan to take the shot; and Kobe is not different. So what makes LeBron – whom I think is arguably the most physically gifted basketball player on the planet – so different?
Well, LeBron is not that different. Lets return once more to the sample data provided above – the stats supports the argument that King James would rather make the correct basketball decision but does not shy away from taking the potential game winning shot. Based on the numbers taken from the sample period, LeBron, Vince Carter and Kobe are the top three players with fifty or more game winning attempts. Of the three, LeBrons’ percentage is better than both Carter and Kobe; it should be noted that Kobe’s actually percentage is only 25%.
So why am I suggesting that LeBron needs to hold on to the ball – by all means necessary – during the fading moments of a close game? Here is the answer:
When the Heat played the Jazz on March 2nd, with 4.5 seconds left on the clock and the heat down by one point. A play was drawn for none other than King James himself. The Jazz seemed to be playing a soft zone defence. LeBron receives the inbound pass with Josh Howard trailing around a pick. Paul Millsap is at the top of the key protecting against a drive to the basket. LeBron takes one dribble and bounce passes the ball
to Udonis Haslem – for the record, Haslem was open and is a very reliable shot maker from that range – who takes the shot and misses. From the video footage, I can say that LeBron could have dribbled one or two more times because Howard was trailing from his right and Millsap was on his heels. A step back and elevation would have given him a good enough shot for a game winning attempt. He should have taken the shot because he was on fire and had scored 17 points in the fourth quarter alone. He should have taken the shot because, pound for pound with all the skills packed into his 6’8 and 260 pounds frame, he can get almost anywhere he wants on the court and shoot over almost any defender. This was a bad basketball decision.
But this should not be how he is perceived during close game moments. It is unbecoming of great basketball players to be perceived as not being clutch – worse is to be perceived as shying away from clutch moments. One of the Jazz commentators uttered these words right after the shot from Haslem clanked off the rim: “He passed it again.”
This is what I am afraid LeBron’s ‘clutch-legacy’ might become. A great player that is ‘perceived’ as being reluctant to take ‘game-on-the-line’ shots when all he is doing is making the right basketball decision.
Although the stats paint a different picture, the reality is that public opinion rarely takes the time to examine the stats. So I ask one more time; LeBron, please chuck-up a couple ‘game-on-the-line’ shot attempts, because the perception is becoming too loud and is drowning out the stats that prove otherwise.