The highlight of the 2012 NBA All-Star Game that everyone is talking about isn't Kevin Durant's 36-point MVP performance, LeBron's ridiculous three-point shooting or the dozens of rim-rattling dunks.
The highlight that everyone is talking about is LeBron's fourth-quarter turnover with just 3.4 seconds left on the clock with the Eastern Conference All-Star team down 151-149.
Everyone is talking about it because it strengthened the idea that LeBron James is a choke artist—that he is scared to take the final shot in games when the outcome is on the line.
While the validity of that argument is lessened by the fact that LeBron's turnover was in an All-Star game and not the NBA Finals, it's legitimate enough to address.
I'm going to tell you why LeBron's 2012 All-Star Game turnover is exactly what the "chosen one" needed, and why it's going to help him down the stretch of the 2011-12 NBA season and into the playoffs.
Reminds LeBron of the Kind of Player He Needs to Be
Everything was going just fine for LeBron James throughout the first half of the 2011-12 season and the first 47.5 minutes of the 2012 NBA All-Star Game; then he had to decide to not take the final shot of the game. Something he's done all too often in the past nine years of his NBA career.
LeBron's been blasted by analysts, fans and even fellow players for his lack of clutch skill and killer instinct. Before the 2011-12 season, LeBron spoke with ESPN's Rachel Nichols and talked about how people's criticisms affected him and changed the kind of player he was.
LeBron went on to say that this year, in 2012, he was going to get back to playing the game the way he used to, with a certain love and appreciation for the game, rather than trying to prove people wrong.
The way that LeBron reacted to how his fellow players and fans reacted to his decision not to take the last shot in the All-Star Game, by sitting on the bench as other players congratulated each other, shows that LeBron knows he has to be a different player, whether he wants to or not.
LeBron's new "love of the game" approach doesn't mean anything if he plays the same way in the fourth quarter this year like he has in the past. That's exactly what his 2012 NBA All-Star Game turnover reminded him of—the player that he needs to be moving forward.
2012 All-Star Game Failure Is Better Than 2012 NBA Finals Failure
I'm sure LeBron James remembers what it feels like to walk into the opposing team's locker room after losing in the NBA Finals and having arguably the worst playoff performance of his career.
LeBron's hot start to the 2011-12 season, with averages of 27.4 points, 8.1 rebounds and 6.8 assists, made it a little easier to forget that feeling, but his failure in the fourth quarter Sunday night quickly reminded him of what it's like to fail.
Luckily for LeBron, it's better to be reminded of what failure feels like during a meaningless All-Star
Game rather than for it to happen when it's too late, in the 2012 NBA Playoffs or NBA Finals.
Watching LeBron give a joyless interview to Craig Sager after his late-game failure in the 2012 NBA All-Star Game was exciting for me, as a Heat fan, because it showed that LeBron still cares a lot about winning.
Being reminded of what it feels like to lose because of a big-time mistake is just what the doctor ordered for LeBron heading into the second half of the 2011-12 NBA season. Hopefully, as LeBron and the Heat near the 2012 NBA Playoffs, he remembers the pain of what it's like to come up short down the stretch.
Reminds LeBron That People Only Remember the Fourth Quarter
I know LeBron isn't playing to prove people wrong anymore, and he supposedly doesn't care what people think, but Sunday night's game-altering turnover proved that all people care about is what LeBron does in the fourth quarter of games moving forward.
LeBron scored 36 points, while going six-of-eight from beyond the arc, while adding seven assists and six rebounds, but no one remembers that because he passed up an opportunity to win the game for his team.
No one is going to remember LeBron's regular-season MVP trophies or his NBA All-First Team selections if he doesn't start stepping his game up and taking over when his team needs him.
People aren't talking today about LeBron's near All-Star MVP performance, and it's because he failed down the stretch like he has in the past. If LeBron wants to be remembered as one of the greatest of all time, he's got to first start by actually believing that himself.
I know it was just another All-Star Game that arguably means absolutely nothing in the longevity of LeBron's career.
But what LeBron did in that game will prove to be the difference maker for him this season, and it will be one of the reasons why he's able to grab his first of many rings in 2012.
What did you think of LeBron's 2012 NBA All-Star Game turnover? Will it help LeBron or hurt him moving forward?
Weigh in with your thoughts in the comment section below, and don't forget to follow me on Twitter @peteremerick. I'll always show up in the fourth quarter. You can count on that.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!