In this YouTube Clip you can see in the first 30 seconds or so Michael Jordan knock down a fade away jump shot to give the East the lead in the 2003 NBA All Star Game. Coming out of the timeout, you will see Kobe Bryant make himself visible to the in bounding player, nearly lose the ball, chase it down and fire up a three and get fouled by Jermaine O’Neal. In both instances you see the team look to these players, give them the ball, and put faith in their ability. In both instances you’ll see these two players pull up, and put the ball up toward the basket. Make or miss, in almost every instance they will shoot the ball. They will shoot the ball because they are intense competitors, want the opportunity, and are supremely confident. Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant have a killer instinct on the basketball court.
That killer instinct is the one thing that LeBron James seems to lack. Tonight in the 2012 All Star Game LeBron James had the ball in his hands with 12 seconds left. Before that, Kobe Bryant was on the free throw line. He made the first shot, putting the West team up by two. Kobe Bryant, uncharacteristically missed the second shot. Immediately I noticed that he didn’t shoot the ball with the same focus and concentration that he usually does. I posted on twitter (@aswashington at 10:18pm) verbatum “Kobe missed on purpose to find out if LeBron has developed the killer instinct yet.” And at 12 seconds LeBron passes the ball to Deron Williams who is a good three point shooter. But he clanks it. The ball flies wildly in the air and gets tipped and by some divine intervention, LeBron James comes up with it. He dribbles around the top of the key and with one arm, whips the ball across the court and it winds up in the hands of Blake Griffin. He threw a pass that a 6th grader knows better than to throw, albeit with one hand.
I shook my head, but almost as if on cue, solidifying the notion that I thought Kobe Bryant missed his free throw on purpose was him seeing the result of the play. He looked at LeBron and clapped his hands together in anger, disgust, disappointment, disbelief, or some mixture of those feelings, as if they were playing for the same team. When the camera zooms in, you can see Carmelo Anthony‘s face, surprised with that half-cringed-smile that’s screaming “wow.” And if my lip reading ability serves me without fail, Kobe Bryants says, “come on man.” He says “come on man” because the players that want to win, have the will to win, and know that they have the ability to win, never shy away from those kinds of moments. Three minutes later I (@aswashington) tweeted verbatum, “This guy LeBron wouldn’t even pull the damn trigger in an All Star Game and Kobe Bryant told him about it.”
Here’s the clip of LeBron Giving Away The Final Shot.
After that you assume the game was over, but after Blake Griffin gets fouled, he makes one free throw and misses another, the West now only up by three, 1.1 seconds left on the game clock, enough time to get a shot up, taking the ball out from half court. You’d think after passing up that opportunity, LeBron would just die for the opportunity to sink a shot and send the game into over time. No, he decides to take the ball out for his team instead. The play goes awry and the East losses the game by three. When interviewed by Steve Sager following the game, it looks almost as if LeBron wants to cry at his performance in those moments.
My tweet that proceeded that play was “I know Stephen A. Smith is ripping out all of his hair at LeBron James not pulling the trigger.” I tweeted that because Stephen A. Smith is, and has been a big supporter of LeBron James and so have I. Stephen A. has defended LeBron for years when his detractors talked about his passion, will, desire, and drive to win. Eventually, Stephen A. became angry because he knows LeBron has all the gifts, but he’s not seizing the opportunities when they matter. He’s deferring the big moments in the playoffs to other players. Even an an All Star Game, a game that brings your team no losses, he wont shoot the ball in the last few seconds. I like Stephen A. think LeBron James is probably the most gifted basketball player in history. But his major character flaw of a lack of confidence, desire, will, whatever you want to call it, may stop him from ever winning a championship. And if he does eventually get one, it may be as a role player and not as King James leading the charge and carrying his team the way the greats have done. But the bottom line is, fans want to see a guy who puts on displays of greatness night in and night out, seize the moment when it matters most. No one cares if you score 36 points, grab 8 rebounds and dish out 10 assists if you’re afraid to get those 2 or 3 points with 3 seconds left, when it matters the most. Even Steve Kerr, an average all-around player at best told Michael Jordan, “hey, if you get it to me, I’ll be ready.” That gave Michael Jordan the confidence to pass him the ball. But he had to have the confidence in himself to want the ball, and want to take the shot. And no one but LeBron James can give that to you buddy.
Until next write…