LeBron James is the best player in the NBA today, and we can see so in his stats: he tallies 29.2 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 7.0 assists per game. What makes this more surprising is that he's making these improvements in fewer minutes than last season and is shooting 55 percent from the floor (including 42 percent from three-point territory).
Best player in the NBA? Absolutely. For three quarters, at least.
LeBron's fourth-quarter performances were rightly vilified after the NBA Finals last season as he scored a grand total 18 fourth-quarter points across the six Finals games.
The jokes came thick and fast and all of a sudden LeBron James found himself labelled a "choker."
Need I, a Chicago Bulls fan, remind you of the Eastern Conference Finals last season? LeBron took over the later part of that series on both ends of the floor and closed out the crucial games that sent Miami to the Finals.
The thing with LeBron isn't the fact that he can't take over in the fourth quarter, because he clearly can. It seems to be a mental issue with LeBron.
Take last week's game against the Milwaukee Bucks in which James scored 40 points. He dominated the first quarter with 24 points, which was more than the entire Bucks team. This is the type of domination that usually leads the player's team to win the game.
Not with LeBron. After three, LeBron had scored 34 points. That's right—he finished the game with just six fourth-quarter points, including one free-throw (out of two), one three-pointer, and one layup. He also had a crucial turnover (travelling) late in the game and had zero assists.
A player like LeBron James has not been seen in the NBA before. At 6'8" and 250 lbs., he looks more like a wide receiver in the NFL than a small-forward in the NBA. He has the height to defend four, sometimes all five positions, the speed to outrun any player not named Derrick Rose and can shoot as well as any player in the league (55 percent from the floor).
I'm going to call James out here. He needs to take over the fourth quarter. Dwyane Wade is capable, but we have seen some pretty poor performances from him lately and he has been suffering from injury, which probably contributes some towards that poor play.
Chris Bosh is a great weapon for the Heat, but he lacks the attributes to truly take over a game the way that James does. LeBron held last season's Most Valuable Player to 10 percent shooting in the Eastern Finals last year, and is scoring at a rate that will see him capture a scoring title (and a near triple-double average for the year).
With James taking over, the Miami Heat become nigh-on unbeatable. There is no player in the league who can do a good enough job to stop a focused and determined LeBron, which makes it strange to think he doesn't take games over more regularly like Derrick Rose and Kobe Bryant do for their teams in late-game situations.
Don't believe those statistics that "x number of head coaches, fans, etc." would take player X over LeBron in the fourth quarter. Those are just headline grabbers. James is the ultimate closer; he just refuses to take on that role exclusively.
Perhaps there needs to be another Dwyane Wade injury in an early playoff series against a tough opponent to force James to become that closer and make him realize that he is the most capable, gifted athlete since Michael Jordan was still around.