Saturday, March 3, 2012
LeBron James: Pass or Shoot, the Diagnosis
The game of basketball is a game of habits. Be it a rugged defensive mentality, or the tendency to take practices lightly, such habits develop at an early age, much like most other aspects of life. LeBron James has always been a great basketball player. Dating back to his AAU days as middle school student, LeBron has always stood out in comparison with others of similar age. From his size, athleticism, and basketball IQ to his unbelievably versatile skills, James showed flashes of brilliance from a very early age. Unfortunately, around the same time, he started to show signs of that one flaw that is, in many regards, his biggest flaw today; deferring to others when it matters the most.
With less than 30 seconds to go in the finals of the Division Two State Championship of his junior year, LeBron dribbled up the court in what seemed to be an isolation play. Down three, most people would assume that young LeBron James would dribble out the clock and hoist up a three pointer at the end to either tie the game and send it to overtime, or miss it and lose in heartbreak fashion. LeBron, on the other hand, had other ideas. He passed up the ball to a team mate curling off the baseline for a three. Now, if the teammate had made the shot, many would've congratulated LeBron for making a great pass; however since he missed it, the situation which didn't seem to be that much of a deal back then, seems to be a reoccurring theme in LeBron's career.
Looking back at that play years later, I can't help but to wonder why. Was it because that was the play that the coach had drawn? Was it simply due to the fact that LeBron, who's vision surpasses that of many point guards at any level of play, spotted what he considered a higher percentage shot? Or was it a case of LeBron simply shying away from the pressure? The answer to that, is another one of those that we as an audience will never know; however, that play, to me, explains why LeBron at the age of 27 still defers to teammates in crunch time: it is a basketball habit that he has developed.
As I mentioned earlier, habits are developed at an early age, and usually stick with an individual for the rest of their life. Habits, whether acquired naturally or taught, are very difficult to break out of. Some of you are probably wondering, "well what does that have to do with anything?" Here's my point, LeBron's habit to pass the ball in such situations is one that he developed way back in his high school days; unfortunately, I blame his High School coach Dru Joyce for not instilling into his mind that crunch time is where stars rise to the stage. That play against Cincinnati's Roger Bacon High School, is in my opinion, the root of LeBron's crunch time fears. Had he made, or at least taken the shot, he would've learned at that age that he had to perfect his craft for those moments. Since he passed it up, in what looked to be a designed play, it appears that LeBron was building a habit of counting on others when it matters the most; a psychological trait that to this day still exists.
I'm not here to list Dru Joyce as the reason behind LeBron's lack of a clutch gene, I'm merely here to point out the impact of a play, that he most likely drew up, on LeBron's current situation. I understand that LeBron didn't have many opportunities to take/make a lot of crunch time shots, considering most of his wins were blowouts; however, if LeBron had been accustomed to taking those type of shots in the few instances that such shots were needed, it would've developed the confidence that he needed in order to step up to the plate and shine, as oppose to shy away from the spotlight. Such is a habit that he clearly hasn't developed yet. It is apparent that he lacks that killer instinct to WANT to take that last shot, and deal with the aftermaths of a possible miss. Will he ever develop this? We are yet to find out. We will most likely find out the answer to this question in June, on the biggest stage in basketball. All I'm saying is, if LeBron had been accustomed to taking those big shots early in his life, that habit would've been developed and wouldn't be a problem today.