LeBron James Made the Right Play in Loss to Utah Jazz

Peter Owen@@Peter_Owen1Correspondent IIMarch 3, 2012

MIAMI, FL - FEBRUARY 21:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat looks on during a game against the Sacramento Kings at American Airlines Arena on February 21, 2012 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Get off LeBron James' back.

We know the stat: LeBron is 1-9 in shots attempted in the final 24 seconds of a game/overtime with the score tied/his team down by three.

So it came down to the final 24 seconds in Friday's game between the Utah Jazz and James' Miami Heat.

LeBron had just connected on one three-pointer and one mind-blowing, how-did-he-do-that, off-balance, long two. He was hot.

So with five seconds to play and the ball in his hands from the inbound pass, what did LeBron James do?

He made the right basketball play.

He turned the corner over the Udonis Haslem screen and began his move to the basket. He recognized the two defenders collapsing onto him and hit up the open man, Haslem, in his favorite spot at the extended free-throw line. Haslem is usually money from there, but with the game on the line his shot hit the back of the rim and the game was over.

Perhaps the blame should be shifted to Udonis Haslem himself, if not for missing a shot he makes the majority of the time, but for not seeing a wide-open elite long-range shooter in Mario Chalmers to his right.

Could Dwyane Wade take some of the blame for fouling Devin Harris on a three-point shot? For missing a potentially game-icing free throw? For then fouling on the game-winning shot?

With today's media and its current focus, no.

LeBron was instantly called out by the Jazz play-by-play announcers for not taking the shot himself.

They are wrong. LeBron was right to pass.

He may well lack the perceived killer instinct that Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and perhaps Kevin Durant all share, but he possesses a great basketball I.Q.

LeBron will never be 'those guys.' He will pass before he will shoot in those late-game situations not because he is scared to miss (would he take those crazy off-balance shots if he was?) but because that is who he is. When the crunch time arrives, he transforms into an over-sized point guard and no amount of media scrutiny is going to change that fact.

One thing this event did highlight is perhaps how little modern-day athletes care about the media's perception of them. LeBron will know all about the media's constant bashing of his performances in the Finals and their often obvious dislike for the Miami Heat last season, yet he has refused to change.

He was told to take over the game more, so he kept passing. He was told to stop being a facilitator, so his assists have crept up.

LeBron has made the media use his own playing style as the measuring stick. He is trying to make the media finally accept that this is who he is.

Let's not forget that LeBron's late-game failings seem to be the favorite talking point of the media the past nine months. If Kobe Bryant takes that shot and makes it, he's a 'killer' and 'clutch.' If he misses? Yeah, we hear about how he missed a game-winning shot, but we don't get 24-hour analysis and breakdown of the shot and his stats and why he was right or wrong.

We move on.

Can we do that with LeBron now too, please?