The “heat” is on Miami’s LeBron James following his Game 4 flameout.
When LeBron James pulled his disappearing act against the Dallas Mavericks in Game 4 of the NBA Finals the other night, he evoked memories of another classic underachiever—Wilt Chamberlain.
LBJ is considered by many to be the best player in the NBA today. He’s been compared to some of the all-time greats, including his Airness himself, Michael Jordan.
But in these NBA Finals, LeBron is not even the best player on the Miami Heat. Dwyane Wade, pure and simple, has been Miami’s best player and its go-to-guy down the stretch.
King James scored eight points in Game 4. Eight points. Are you serious? You have to go back 434 games to find the last time the great LeBron scored eight points or less in a game.
LeBron made just three of 11 shots and came up empty when it mattered most—down the stretch in the fourth quarter.
James did finish with nine rebounds and seven assists. But all that really matters is that the Heat got eight points from the most dominant basketball force on the planet and lost by three with a chance to put a stranglehold on the series.
Wilt in the Clutch
Sounds like Wilt Chamberlain, the Big Dipper. Wilt was a virtually unstoppable force who once averaged 50 points for an entire season and scored 100 points in a single game.
For years in the '60s, Wilt’s teams—the Philadelphia Warriors and later the 76ers—came up short against the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference playoffs before the Sixers won the NBA title in 1967.
The following year, Philly blew a 3-1 lead and lost to the Celtics in a seventh game where Wilt scored only 14 points and failed to score a single point in the second half.
Wilt was traded to the Lakers in the offseason and took LA to the NBA Finals. But in Game 7 of the 1968 Finals, Chamberlain took himself out of the game midway through the fourth quarter, never returned and the Lakers lost to the Celtics.
In 1970, it happened again. Lakers-Knicks in the NBA Finals, Game 5, and New York’s Willis Reed went down in the first quarter with a thigh injury. The Lakers led by 13 at the half but collapsed in the second half when Wilt and Jerry West combined for just five shots.
Wilt had a monster Game 6 with 45 points and 27 rebounds as the Lakers forced a seventh game. But facing a hobbled Reed in Game 7, Chamberlain was barely visible as the Knicks romped to their first NBA championship.
Two Titles for Chamberlain
Wilt did manage to win a second NBA title in 1972 when Reed was once again sidelined by injury.
In Chamberlain’s defense, he faced Hall of Fame centers like Russell, Reed, Nate Thurmond and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and led far inferior teams to near titles.
LeBron, who is seeking his first NBA championship, has an edge in talent in these Finals. The Heat were heavily favored coming in and hold the home-court advantage over Dallas.
“I’ll come back in Game 5 and do things that need to be done to help our team win,” LBJ said after the Game 4 meltdown.
The jury is still out on that one.