LeBron James: A Truly Enigmatic Sports Superstar

John FrascellaCorrespondent IJune 12, 2013

I'd be embarrassed, too.
I'd be embarrassed, too.

As I watched LeBron James miss 11 of his first 13 shots in Game 3 of the NBA Finalsamidst another head-scratching individual performance in a series-swinging lossI couldn't help but wonder:

What is going on in his head right now?

James, arguably the most famous athlete in all of professional sports and a larger-than-life pop culture figure, appeared a timid and tentative mortal throughout much of the Heat's shell-shocking, 36-point loss to the white-hot Spurs.  

The man who dominated the Oklahoma City Thunder in last season's NBA Finals was nowhere to be found. James finished 7-of-21 on field goals and just 1-of-5 from beyond the three-point arc.

So the question is...who is the real LeBron James? The four-time MVP who shot an incredible 56.5 percent from the floor this season, or the sheepish, detrimental player who is currently 21-of-54 (38.9 percent) in the NBA Finals?

I can honestly say, I don't have the answer for you.

In my opinion, watching LeBron James in his prime feels different than watching Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant.

What I mean by that is, I never felt like Jordan would crack or that Bryant would crumble.

And yet with James, I'm almost waiting for him to fail. Even when he's playing extremely well, he leaves a little doubt in my mind. 

I mean, how else can you explain a 57 percent shooter dropping to 39 percent in the NBA Finals? He has to be choking at least a little, right?

Sure we can give some credit to Coach Popovich's disorienting defensive schemes, but anyone who has watched the first three games of this series knows that James has missed a slew of makeable shots. It's not as if he's been draped every time he's attempted a basket.

So if James is choking, then why?

Maybe it's because the Spurs have his number. Maybe it's because he's not getting enough assistance from his teammates. Maybe he's not feeling 100 percent.

Or maybe LeBron James isn't the superhero that the public wants him to be. Maybe he's just a man. Maybe the money, the accolades and the fame don't mean anything.

Maybe the pressure is getting to LeBron James, and he's the only one who can shake it.


John Frascella is the author of "Theo-logy: How a Boy Wonder Led the Red Sox to the Promised Land," the only book centered on the life and professional career of Theo Epstein.