Every great warrior has a weakness. Achilles had his heel. Samson had his hair. LeBron has...his elbow?
While his elbow will heal this off-season, it is now clear that Lebron's lack of killer instinct has cost him playoff glory.
It was only a few years ago that LeBron single-handedly took down the then-powerhouse Detroit Pistons and led to the overachieving Cavs to the NBA Finals.
He scored 25 straight points, and 29 of the Cavs final 30, to take a pivotal game five which swung all the momentum to Cleveland.
Cleveland went on to advance to the finals against San Antonio. At that point, we thought it was the first of many.
While the Cavs were swept by a more talented and experienced team in the Spurs, it seemed that all LeBron needed were more established stars to follow the model of the Spurs' Big three (and later the Celtics) or, at the very least, to pair James up with a top tier big man (like the Lakers did fore Kobe with Pau Gasol.)
The Suns gave the Cavs Shaq for cap relief (Both Ben Wallace and Sasha Pavlovic are no longer with the Suns.) The Wizards gift-wrapped Antawn Jamison for a first round pick and Zydrunas Ilgauskas (who was released and rejoined the Cavs a month later) after the Gilbert Arenas fiasco.
It seemed that it was finally their time to reign as NBA Champions. In 2008, Boston proved that a team full of veterans and all-stars could win the title within their first year of playing together. Combine a past his prime Shaq with something to prove, the always efficient Jamison, and arguably the greatest basketball player on the planet (I still say Kobe,) and it seemed like this team would not come up short again.
Simply put, LeBron lacks that killer instinct.
He lacks the part of the brain that refuses to allow defeat. When the Cavs needed a basket, and the ball was in LeBron’s hands, you could count that if he didn’t have a good shot he would pass the ball.
Kobe has proven time and time again that he has the mentality to not only take ownership for hitting that big shot, but he is also willing to take the shot that might not be the smartest shot. Because he is Kobe Bryant, it is still a better shot then giving someone like Anderson Varejeo a wide-open 15 footer to clank off the back rim.
LeBron’s desire to be a team player is commendable for a superstar of his talents, and will continue to allow him to add to his assist and triple-double numbers, but because he is so willing to allow his teammates take shots reserved for the best player, he will continue to fall in the playoffs.
One thing we learned in these playoffs is that LeBron will get his points, one way or another. But because he focuses on getting his teammates involved, the Celtics showed that if you can keep his teammates from hitting shots, the Cavs are a beatable team.
Teams accepted the fact that LeBron would get his points from driving the lane, running the fast break, and hitting the occasional three because every time he allowed his teammates to carry the team, they could be guarded and be forced into bad shots.
I am not saying that LeBron is a bad player for handing out assists. I think that is one thing that he has on Kobe is his willingness to be a distributor. But when the team is depending on you to bring up the ball, pass it around, AND score 30 points and grab 12 rebounds a game, some days you will come up short.
LeBron needs is a distributing point guard to allow him to facilitate the game on the second or third pass, instead of being the first to give the ball up, and to allow him to focus on attacking the basket when his team needs points.
Maybe he will find that point guard at his next stop, Chicago has a nice young guard that seems to be gaining the praise reserved for the NBA elite.
While people are gushing over LeBron’s ability to dish out eight assists a game, it seems to me that he would be far more effective developing a killer instinct, to the point when people fear that he can actually hit any shot on the court. Until then, people will love to play with a guy willing to share the ball, earn MVP’s, and come up short time and time again.
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