Let’s get this out of the way up front.
I hated the way LeBron James conducted himself last off-season.
I hated “The Decision.”
I hated the way the Miami Heat pre-celebrated a championship.
I’m just like most of you. I hated all of it. I’ve been rooting against LeBron and Co. because I wanted them to learn a lesson in humility. Because I root for things, like most people, that might be impossible. I root for the way things “should be” (even though I know “should” is a relative term that differs from person to person).
So when you look at last night’s box score and see that he shot 6-14 and only had 17 points, it’s easy to let all that stuff I just mentioned burst out in a celebratory “look at LeBron fail” moment.
But I can’t. Because he didn’t.
LeBron James spent last night taking what the defense gave him. And what it gave him was the opportunity to be a floor general. Last night, LeBron became a facilitator knowing that Dwyane Wade had the mismatch more often than he did. He passed the ball because it was the smart basketball move. And on the last basket of the night, when the Miami Heat needed to find a good look at the basket, LeBron came up with the best look of the night: a pin-point pass to Chris Bosh who, thanks to a damn fine pin-down by Udonis Haslem, had a shoot-around quality view of the basket.
James passed at the biggest moment of the game because staring him in the face were Tyson Chandler and Shawn Marion. He passed it because the Dallas Mavericks decided there was no way in hell they were going to let Wade or LeBron win that game. He passed it because he kept his wits about him, which is not something we’ve been able to say in the past about his clutch performances.
If tihs was Kevin Durant passing out of a double team to find Serge Ibaka for the game winning hoop on his 9th assist of the game, we’d praise him for having the poise and guts to make the right play. We’d do it because Kevin Durant is that impossible ideal: The shy, humble superstar who still shows enough fire to let you know he cares but always manages to say the right thing to the media. LeBron has shown himself to often be the opposite, so he doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt anymore.
Trust me, I’d love to sit here on my laptop and blast LeBron for his lack of leadership. It would feed the rabid LeBron hate and it would be great for business. But I can’t because he doesn’t deserve it this time. It might not have been his most brilliant game of the playoffs, but his performance wasn’t a result of him shying away from the moment. Maybe if you looked at this game under the microscope without the perspective of the Boston or Chicago series, you might come away with a different opinion. But the whole picture tells a different story.
You can bash LeBron for a lot of things, but not for last night’s game.