Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh Proving Even LeBron James Can't Win Alone
Admittedly, lessons in James' limits and mortality are proverbial keepsakes we could do without. We're well aware that not even The King himself can do what the Miami Heat are attempting to on his own.
On any given night, James can carry a team by himself. For stretches at a time, he can operate on a plane all his own and will the Heat to victory without any help whatsoever.
James didn't come to Miami to win alone, though. He knows he can't. In the age of superteams, one star isn't enough to secure a title, even if that star is LeBron James.
"I wanted to team up with some guys that would never die down in the moment," James said in 2011 of his decision to sign with Miami (via Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com).
Seven painstaking years with the Cleveland Cavaliers made James understand there were no championships to be won without a supporting cast worth his time. He lugged the Cavs to the NBA Finals in 2007, playing alongside Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Larry Hughes, Drew Gooden and Sasha Pavlovic, all of whom averaged more than 30 minutes per game during the postseason. And where did it get him? Nowhere.
Cleveland reached the finals, but not even James could single-handedly muster a victory against the San Antonio Spurs. The Cavs would never reach the finals again in the LeBron era.
Absconding to Miami was then his ultimate concession to an agonizing reality. He wanted to win titles, and he couldn't in Cleveland.
South Beach afforded him the opportunity to play next to two other superstars; Miami presented him with the chance to win championships and build a dynasty.
Nearly three years later, James finds himself back in Cleveland mode, attempting to coax his team to a championship on his own.
We'd like to believe things are different because of the branding behind his partners in crime, when really, they aren't.
Bosh and Wade weren't supposed to abandon James in their collective hour of need. They were above that.
His admission is an understatement of their performances in the postseason.
Bosh is averaging 11.3 points and 3.7 rebounds on 41.1 percent shooting during the Eastern Conference Finals. Roy Hibbert and David West have manhandled him in the post, and he's been unable to capitalize on the opportunities he's given. And he's owned up to it.
"I'm not going to make any excuses. I didn't show up for my teammates tonight, and I'm not going to let it happen again," Bosh conceded after Game 6 (via Windhorst). "I'm really disappointed in myself."
Bosh hasn't created an illusion. He's not performing up to snuff, and he knows it. Seeing James expend every last ounce of energy attempting to keep the Heat afloat has resonated with him.
We can't say the same for Wade.
James' sidekick is posting 14.5 points and 4.8 assists on 44.2 percent shooting against the Pacers. Though he's refused to use his knee as an excuse, he hasn't hesitated to use James as a human shield.
"We've got guys individually who want to play better," Wade said (via Windhorst). "But we've got to try to help each other out in this locker room and not leave it up to the individual to self-will it."
Like James is trying to do too much out of personal preference, right? He came to Miami to do just the opposite, to be able to rely on others to help him shoulder the burden of winning.
"We have to do a better job of getting opportunities for me and Chris to succeed," Wade said (via Wojnarowski).
Those easy looks have come more than Wade cares to acknowledge. There have been chances for both him and Bosh to put in some easy buckets. Is it James' fault that they (specifically Wade) haven't been able to convert?
“I know he missed a couple of chippies that he wished he could get back,” James said of Wade (via Ethan J. Skolnick of The Palm Beach Post).
Wade isn't Wade. And that's fine. He doesn't want to attribute his lack of production to his ailing knee. That's fine too. Subtly displacing blame for his tactical transgressions is not.
James is attempting to do much. We can see it. With every drop of sweat that sidles its way off his exhausted face and onto the hardwood, we can tell he's put more into this series than he intended. But that's not his fault.
It's not James' fault that Erik Spoelstra didn't feel confident enough to play Bosh and Wade more down the stretch. It's not his fault that the two combined for just over six minutes of playing time in the fourth quarter of Game 6. It's not his fault they combined to go 4-of-19 from the field in the most crucial game of the season. And it sure as hell is not his fault that Wade is being outplayed by Norris Cole or Mario Chalmers on a game-by-game basis.
Serial flopping aside, Wade has always seemed to possess an air of levelheadedness his peers didn't, James included.
Between the Decision and seething media attacks, James had so much growing up to do. He needed to be more like Wade—poised, introspective and humble. Now it's Wade who needs the lesson in accountability.
This self-righteous ignorance of his is pathetic. That's just what it is. Wade's take on the situation seems borne from entitlement more than anything else—like his struggles are beyond reproach because he helped orchestrate James' arrival, and it's him who has continued to make sacrifices.
Bosh has made sacrifices too. So has James. They all have. That's just the nature of the Big Three's beast. So is responsibility, a virtue that suddenly eludes Wade at the most inopportune of times.
Wade hasn't been the only one struggling. There's Bosh. And Ray Allen. Shane Battier probably wishes he hadn't been reduced to a non-factor either. But Wade is the only one who has tried to evade his failed endeavors.
Not everyone has been as pointed as Bosh in their acceptance of what has gone awry. But no one has been as obstinate as Wade.
Where has it left the Heat? Where have Bosh and Wade's declines gotten them? Where has Wade's impaired sense of reality left James?
Who will win Game 7?
On the brink of elimination, one loss away from watching their dynasty crumble under the weight of expectations.
"If anything it's on me," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of Bosh and Wade (via Windhorst). "I've got to find [a] way to get those guys comfortable in areas where they can be aggressive."
Really though, it's on James. Everything is on him, when it shouldn't be. Unless Bosh and Wade emerge from the doldrums they've been dwelling in, James alone won't be enough. And that's not his fault.
*All stats for this article were compiled from Basketball-Reference and NBA.com unless otherwise attributed.
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