LeChoke No More

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeeded.” – Michael Jordan

After ImanShumpert sneakily tapped the ball away from Stephen Curry, sealing the Cleveland Cavaliers’ improbable Game 2 victory, the buzzer sounded to the silence of Oracle Arena. LeBron James mightily slammed the ball to the floor, igniting a series of powerful and passionate screams, all after a hard fought victory against the best team in the NBA.

LeBron displayed his versatility and all-around brilliance—finishing with a game-high 39 points, 16 rebounds, and 11 assists—his fifth NBA Finals triple-double while playing 50 out of a possible 53 minutes—the most from both sides. Even if he did play a great game, trying to involve his teammates even more—for the second straight game, he failed to win the game in regulation after he missed a left-handed lay-up as he tried to evade three defenders.

Social media erupted upon The King’s miss. The old nickname LeChoke resurfaced—bringing back painful memories when LeBron would come short down the stretch or when he passed the ball to his teammates for them to win the game.

Let’s get this first: LeBron James isn’t Michael Jordan—and nobody ever will. Nobody should even ever consider comparing a player to Jordan because he is simply The Best Ever.

Jordan, as great or as ‘clutch’ as he is, lost games for the Bulls. No one is perfect and capable of making the winning play every time. That is what makes us human—the absence of perfection and the inability to succeed in every opportunity.

Before criticizing LeBron once again, let us understand the context he is in. His team is down 0-1 in a best-of-seven series for the NBA Championship against the best team in the league without two of his fellow All-Stars and surrounded by players who could form a lottery bound team. He is your team’s only option on offense—leading your team in points, rebounds, and assists. Not only do you ask him to score but also have the presence of mind to create scoring opportunities for others and also have him defend on the other side of the court. With the game hanging on the balance, after he loses his primary defender, you want him to make a tough left-handed lay-up against three players all after playing 45 minutes of basketball and nit-pick him if he decides to pass the ball.

This is simply not fair.

We haven’t seen a player impact the entire game as much as he has since Wilt Chamberlain. (And mind you, he scored 100 points for a reason) Basketball is called a team sport for a simple reason—five players can always beat one. Yet, LeBron James has the entire Cavs organization and the city of Cleveland hoping that he pulls off the greatest upset in NBA Finals history—probably a greater upset than David versus Goliath. Everything now seems unreal because these are the stuff of legends—heroes facing insurmountable odds yet finding it within themselves to rise above expectation, adversity, and most of all reality.

LeBron James has taken a batch of spare parts, molded them according to his specifications, gathered them around and placed them all on his back. He has carried a team with minimal belief in themselves and giving them a fighter’s chance of ending Cleveland’s championship misery.

As assistant coach Jim Boylan said, “When you have LeBron James, you have a [bleeping] chance”. And sometimes, that’s all he needs.