Yesterday, I got a text from the Scizz about midway through the afternoon. It was short, sweet and to the point.
“I hate LeBron.”
A little over a year ago, it was unthinkable that anyone could find a reason not to love LeBron. The man-child who played for his hometown team was thought to be, amongst most fans, the best player in the NBA. He thrilled crowds with ferocious dunks and amazed them with his quickness. And afterwards, he would flash that huge smile, say something witty and leave everyone feeling pretty good about the future of basketball.
LeBron doesn’t seem to understand this sometimes. Certainly most of the season played out in a way that made him seem quite naïve for not realizing how hard people were going to take his Decision. But by now, there can be no more surprise when the haters come calling after an abysmal Game 4 performance. Now Bron-Bron has to realize that even with a lighter load in Miami, to ever be considered one of the greats, you must shine brightest on this stage.
We’ve already seen him perform spectacularly in the previous two rounds, but then again, we’d seen that in seasons past. The Finals are the time in any sport when the truly “great ones” step up and make things happen for their team. What they don’t do is vanish without a trace.
To be fair, Game 4 was probably the best game Dallas had collectively. Their defense was stout, holding the Heat to 83 points. Dirk wasn’t as prolific as in previous games, but he finally got some help from Terry, Marion and even Chandler. But once again, it took a late surge to come from behind and retake the lead. Surely there is solace to be found in this fact, but it also must worry Mavericks fans that they must constantly be playing catch-up with the Heat.
And that’s why LeBron’s performance, or lack thereof, becomes so critical. It took every Dallas had to come back and win a game where James had one of the worst shooting nights of his career. Logic would lead us to believe that if Miami finally gets the Big 3 to start cranking on all cylinders, then no amount of late game heroics will save Dallas.
At this point, it’s hard to imagine that LeBron won’t find a way to create offense for himself. A seven game series is all about adjustments and by Game 5, you should have a pretty good understanding of what the other team is trying to do to you.
Although to be fair, Miami is certainly capable of winning this series without him. Even with his awful shooting, the Heat only lost by 3. And if Wade doesn’t mishandle the inbounds pass, perhaps the game makes it into overtime and then, who knows?
But the hater-vultures are circling this series, waiting for more performances like Games 2 and 4. And if LeBron doesn’t want to spend the rest of this summer and all of next season hearing about how he shrunk from the NBA’s brightest spotlight, he better find a way to come through when it counts. His decision-making has never mattered more than right now.