You can’t get these moments back.
Otherworldly talents like LeBron James get to write their own scripts in moments like Tuesday night.
Down one, 32 seconds left against the Indiana Pacers. We all figured the Heat would be a different team without Chris Bosh, but this is not supposed to be the Pacers’ time.
This is the moment where a three-time league MVP grabs center stage and wills the ball into the basket by any means necessary.
Instead, we saw a man among boys play hot potato. First, to Shane Battier, then to D-Wade.
It has become an all-too-familiar, scratch-your-head part of the LeBron James story.
We’ve watched him seemingly quit on his team in the final minutes of his time in a Cleveland Cavaliers uniform.
We have watched him defer to inferior teammates in Miami, as the bluster of the intro press conference declarations fade into cowering retreats from the spotlight.
And 20 years from now, when ESPN tackles their “50 for 50” documentaries, fans like us that thought we were privileged to see a legend in his prime will be watching “The Superstar Who Was Never Super.”
It should not take two decades of self reflection for James to see where this is headed.
The film is there. It’s the latest clip that is becoming a compilation of letdown lowlights.
We all want the next Michael Jordan. We want the flu game, we want the fist pump and the dagger in the heart of the Cavs and the Jazz and any other opponent that dared question Jordan’s clutch abilities.
When you allow yourself to be called King James, it is not unreasonable for us fans to expect a coronation sooner than later.
Meanwhile, low-key legends are stomping on the crown. Tim Duncan wins, he takes the ball to the hoop when needed and he gets it done. Kevin Durant is headed down the same path.
We tried to make Kobe Bryant into MJ long before there was a LeBron. At first, the label never felt right. Now, Kobe has the rings and the stats to rightfully earn the comparisons.
What does LeBron have? He has moments like Tuesday night.
Plenty of experts have tried to defend James. Maybe he was never meant to be Jordan. Maybe he is much more like Magic, the floor general who is as comfortable creating memories for Kareem and Worthy as he is being The Man.
At this point, the comparison is a slight to Magic. The legend had an uncanny sense of when his sick passes were as powerful as a baby hook or a game-winning bomb.
Whatever path he chose, more often than not, the result was all-time greatness.
LeBron is letting those moments slip away. There are no sick passes, just an inexplicable withdrawal from the seconds in time that make stars into legends.
His passes to Battier and Wade Tuesday were as uncomfortable to watch as The Decision.
Sadly, that is the most definitive statement James has made in his career to date.
There is plenty of time. It took Peyton time to break through. Jordan didn’t win his first title until he was 28.
Still, we are all witnesses to a disturbing trend. The true greats make us believe that next-level moment is a forgone conclusion.
The only thing we can definitely believe with James right now is that his leadership will never be there when his team needs it most.