Will LeBron James' Inconsistency Cost Miami Heat NBA Finals Repeat?

Jimmy Spencer@JimmySpencerNBANBA Lead WriterJune 17, 2013

LeBron James does not have the killer instinct of Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant.

Put that line on shuffle—it gains further momentum on any given night of these NBA Finals as James grows more vulnerable to disappearance.

His inconsistency is undeniable, as the league’s greatest talent has vanished for prolonged stretches in his quest for a second ring.

LeBron's sudden absence in big moments is again fueling criticism. He fell far short of incredible in the second half of the Miami Heat’s 114-104 loss to the San Antonio Spurs in Game 5 Sunday night.

James' stat line—25 points, eight assists, six rebounds and four steals—hides what was truly a letdown game. He went just 8-of-22 (36.4 percent) in the loss, including 2-of-11 shooting in the second half.

The Spurs led 61-52 at halftime but pushed ahead to a 96-76 game-high lead with 9:13 remaining in the fourth quarter. During that period, LeBron disappeared. Rather than rallying the Heat back, the league's Most Valuable Player, who shot 56.5 percent in the regular season, shot 1-of-9 (11 percent).

More is demanded from legends.

James will never be compared to just the great; he will forever be compared to the greatest. Maybe it’s Jordan nostalgia or even selective memories of Kobe's career, but it never felt like either of those contemporary greats lost their edge in big moments.  

It’s not just up-and-down production; James’ fire has been inconsistent as well. He needs to force the issue, but he rejects the notion that taking over is necessary. 

There are stretches in this series when James needs to play with urgency, like when the Heat trailed coming out of halftime, but instead, he pulls back. Seldom-used Boris Diaw shouldn’t be able to slow down one of the game’s all-time greats.

To James' credit, he attacked the basket more Sunday night than he did in Games 3 and 4. He also reached the free-throw line for nine attempts—five times more than he did combined in the previous two games.

Of course, it’s not all on James.

The Heat's team defense that allowed the Spurs to shoot 60 percent was a greater downfall than James’ cold stretch. And perhaps Miami wins if Mike Miller, who started and played 25 minutes, scored at least one point or if Mario Chalmers didn't go 2-of-10 from the field.

Here’s the thing, though—if the Heat were to win this series because Miller and Chalmers hit more shots, it would still be remembered as James’ title. So when the team loses, of course it’s natural to look toward the team’s best player.

It’s the legacy of James that’s on the line; how Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh perform is secondary. The greatest player is playing on the grandest stage, and as it stands, his inconsistency is costing the Heat a chance to win a title.

Winning is ultimately what legends are remembered for. James isn’t perfect, and Jordan, despite popular belief, wasn’t perfect either. But Jordan will always be remembered for propelling his teams to victory.

Right now, James is on a different path. Next season, the only memory that will endure is whether or not James is able to win a championship. If he loses, the narrative transitions back to him being a choke-artist in the biggest moments.

With one more Heat loss, LeBron James will have lost three of his four NBA Finals appearances. The Heat have yet to win two consecutive games since Game 5 of the conference semifinals versus the Chicago Bulls and Game 1 against the Indiana Pacers in the conference finals.

Miami’s inconsistency falls on its leader, and it could be the reason the teams falls short in its hopes to claim a second consecutive title.