LeBron James' Mental Growth Matters More Than His Free Agency Decision

Hadarii JonesSenior Writer IJune 29, 2010

BOSTON - MAY 13:  LeBron James #23  of the Cleveland Cavaliers tries to rally his team in the fourth quarter against the Boston Celtics during Game Six of the Eastern Conference Semifinals of the 2010 NBA playoffs at TD Garden on May 13, 2010 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Celtics defeated the Cavaliers 94-85.  NOTE TO USER: User Expressly Acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Most of the talk concerning LeBron James' impending free agency decision has centered around which team would be best suited to help James capture his first NBA championship. Unless James matures mentally this off season, it may not matter what team receives his services.

Most people would agree James is the most physically gifted athlete in the NBA. He is the rare player who has every bit of talent to match his superior athleticism.

There is little that James is incapable of accomplishing on a basketball court. His part in the Cleveland Cavaliers' surprising loss to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals had little to do with James' ability.

To be fair, James' versatility is the only reason the Cavaliers were able to capture two out of six games from Boston. However, his break down in Game Five was a main catalyst for Cleveland's loss.

James' 3-14 shooting performance in Game Five has to qualify as the worst playoff showing of his career. Although every player is entitled to bad games, it was James' mood and mannerisms that truly told the story.

For the first time in his career James seemed defeated. His energy matched the 120-88 thrashing his Cavaliers' team received that evening.

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Prior to that game, there was nothing the Celtics had done that would lead a person to believe they were capable of completely shutting down arguably the game's best player.

James had mostly toyed with Boston and Paul Pierce by scoring at will. He made it nearly impossible for Pierce to get good looks at the basket by employing suffocating man to man defense.

It was clear early that the Celtics had more than a fighting chance in the series. However, every indication pointed to James having the ability to be the deciding factor in a Cavaliers' victory.

James was the deciding factor as it eventually turned out, but his demoralizing display in Game Five was something the Cavaliers couldn't recover from despite his triple-double in Game Six.

That Game Five loss put a halt on most of the conversation proclaiming James as the league's best player. Even though his game on the court is nearly flawless, deficiencies in his mental make-up were exposed.

Desire, drive, passion, and will are some of the other components that separate the legendary players in the NBA. James must prove he has these characteristics if he hopes to scale the ladder of NBA greatness.

It doesn't matter which other big name free agent may choose to join James or what team he signs with. If he hasn't learned to capture the moment and lead by example, he will never win in the NBA.

Many people assumed James' talent would be enough to carry Cleveland over the threshold. It nearly was. Yet under the heat of playoff pressure, the Cavaliers needed a stabilizing force. James couldn't respond.

Not once did I see James in the face of any of his under-achieving teammates when the series was hanging in the balance, and although this tactic is not effective with everyone, it may have been for Cleveland.

James had already coaxed every ounce of ability out of his supporting cast, but when they needed to trust their own skills and play with focus he should have been there to remind them.

Every team that has managed to win a championship in the last ten years has had a clearly defined vocal leader who usually doubles as the team's best player. If James hopes to win a title, he will have to assume this responsibility.

James' abilities on the court make him a natural leader anyway, but he has to find the mental fortitude to complete him as a player.

As it stands now, James will immediately make any team lucky enough to gain his services an instant title contender. In order for that team to truly be called favorites, James must show some mental maturity.