Since LeBron made his "decision," there has been no shortage of critics who have chimed in on his indiscretions, hurling vitriolic attacks his way simply for the purposes of their own edification.
He has been called a liar, a deserter, an egomaniac and—perhaps the most questionable charge of all—a choker.
Seriously, LeBron James was referred to as a guy who "chokes in big games." Before I address the complete lack of historical insight of that allegation, let's look at a few examples of LeBron's choking during the 12-game win streak.
His critics predicted that his homecoming in Cleveland would be ugly and that he wouldn't be able to handle the pressure of returning.
LeBron choked all right...with 38 points, eight assists, and five rebounds. Then before the game in New York, the cover of the New York Post suggested he was "LeChicken" and was a "LeChoker." James responded with a triple-double (32 points, 10 assists and 11 rebounds). In both cases, James was booed the entire game and rose to the pressure on a huge stage.
Now, these two performances will not quiet the incorrect belief that LeBron doesn't come through in the clutch, but they show that LeBron's mental toughness is more attuned than what people give him credit for.
When you look at James' past performances in "big games," though, any objective observer would conclude that he almost always came through, even if he was eventually let down by his supporting cast.
Game 7 in 2008 against the Celtics—that would have been a good time to choke. The Cavs faced insurmountable odds against the league's best team on the road. So what did LeBron do? He scored 45 points and nearly willed his Cavs over a deeper Celtics team, eventually losing by five.
Or how about the Orlando series? Surely LeBron choked in that one; his team was the top seed in the East and lost to the Magic, probably because of James' poor performance. Oh, he averaged 38, eight and eight for the series? What did he do in the close out game? Just 25, seven and seven.
Look, a person has a right to dislike James, but you can't say he chokes in big games. It's simply not an allegation that can be substantiated. Even if you take his supposedly "disinterested" series against the Celtics this year into account—if 26.8 points, 7.2 assists and 9.3 rebounds per game were not enough—then how much should he have done to prove that he is a winner? Maybe 34, 12 and 14? And if he had the supporting cast to win a title, why would his number have to continue to rise for him to win?
When Jordan won with the Bulls he had help from Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman, so his numbers went down.
You can't argue that James had the supporting cast to win and that he needed numbers that would dwarf those of Bird, Jordan or Magic just for his team to have a chance.
You can't have it both ways.
Additionally, I can give you tons of examples of games in which Kobe didn't "give his all" (Game 6 verses the Celtics in 2008, Game 7 against the Suns in 2006, Game 3 against the Pistons in 2004, Game 4 against the Spurs in 1999, etc.), but he would never be called a "choker."
By winning these games in the hostile environment, James is showing how tough he really is.