Saturday, March 3, 2012

LeBron James: Pass or Shoot, the Diagnosis

     LeBron James is by far the most scrutinized and criticized player the game of basketball has ever seen.  Every move he makes, on and off the court, is analyzed by millions of basketball fans and analysts, trying to detect a flaw.  To some extent, LeBron deserves all this negative attention, for actions such as the infamous decision of June 2010; however as a human, no one deserves this much criticism.   I find myself asking the question "why" a lot of times because it seems to be the only reaction to many of LeBron's decisions when the spotlight is shinning the brightest. When he decided to "take his talents to South Beach," I asked why.  When he went completely MIA in the NBA Finals, I asked why.  When he made that costly turnover in the last seconds of this year's All-Star game, I asked why.  When he took the ball out of bounds, eliminating himself from possibly taking the last shot of the game, I asked why.  When he passed the ball to Udonis Haslem in the closing seconds of last nigh'ts game against the Jazz, I asked why.  The answer to all these questions, only LeBron knows, but after studying LeBron's life a little more and digging back to his High School days, I may have the answer to that question.
     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.

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  1. I can't stand LeBron. I am a Cavs fan. His late game failures are now well documented. However, during his years as a Cav, he regularly carried us to huge victories in crunch time. There were the occasional times where he deferred to teammates when he probably shouldn't have...I can remember a playoff game against Detroit where he passed to Donyell Marshall for a corner 3 instead of seizing the moment. But, there were a slew of BIG games where he stepped up and delivered. Multiple times against the Wizards in the first round of our many playoff battles with them. That huge game against Detroit when he scored 48 points and scored almost ALL of the Cavs points in the 4th quarter and OT to lead them to victory, etc. He has it in him. Just needs to find it again or something.

  2. You too a long time to write what LBJ has already said, including after the Jazz loss. He did what he what he was taught all his life. He was taught to play unselfish and when a man is open to pass the ball. Really many NBA stars should learn that. Like you mentioned, if the player who the ball went to had made the shot, no one cares. Well, that happens all the time in the NBA, but the only person who gets killed for it is LBJ. You cannot blame LBJ when a good play does not work.

    Also, I think people go overboard when they act like LBJ has never taken and made last minute shots. As the person above has pointed he has done this. If you look on youtube there are there. He's had just seconds and has made them. Last season he took shots and missed, and then you writers wrote how he should pass the ball and that he was taking over Wade's team. You writers want LBJ do do the opposite of whatever he does. You will always have a story to write.