Not This Again: SportsCenter Tries To Re-Ingnite A Tired LeBron Controversy
Remember this? Of course you do. It was LeBron James’ big moment, the ultimate fulfillment of his potential, cementing him as one of the greatest players of all time and once and for all ending the questions of whether he could get the job done when it mattered and lol no jk it totally didn’t:
That’s a graphic that was used on SportsCenter this morning. It’s a reference to LeBron missing two late threes in the Heat’s stunning loss to the Wizards last night. It says, for those having trouble reading it:
LeBron James is 3-13 on game-tying or go-ahead FG with less than 24 sec in 4th qtr or OT
Ray Allen is a perfect 3-3 on such shots this season
Over the last 3 seasons the league average on such shots is 27.6
And there are several reasons why it’s dumb:
1) If he had passed, and the open Heat player missed, everyone would be asking: “Should LeBron have shot? Why is LeBron still afraid to take the big shot?” How do I know? Because it happened last season.
2) If he had passed, and the open Heat player had made it, at least someone would be saying, “LeBron’s still afraid to take the big shots, he’s just luck it worked.” I have a guess as to who this hypothetical person might have been.
3) LeBron missing a couple threes isn’t a big story. He’s never been a great long range shooter (33 percent from three for his career, though his percentage has gone up in the last couple seasons as he’s taken fewer of them, and his percentage from downtown so far this season sits at a relatively robust 42.3. Still, I wouldn’t expect that mark to hold all year, and some misses are inevitable.
4) Maybe you want to use LeBron’s pedestrian career three-point-shooting against him here, and say that it’s all more proof that the graphic was right and that he should have let Ray Allen take the big shots. BUT: Allen was off last night. He only shot 4-for-12, and 3-for-9 from three. A make was hardly a given. And if LeBron had given it up and Allen had missed, as he did two thirds of the time he shot the ball last night? Well, then see item 1 in this list.
5) LeBron had a triple double last night: 26 points, 13 rebounds, 11 assists (against three turnovers). He added three steals and two blocks for good measure. As easily digestible a moment as those two missed threes were, the game was 48 minutes long, and LeBron’s overall contribution suggests he might not be the first guy you’d want to point the finger at for the admittedly bad loss.
The Heat lost this one as a team. So if anything, you might want to single out allowing 105 points on 48 percent shooting to the Wizards (far, far above the Wiz’s season average on both counts). And, in a more big-picture sense, you might want to consider that the Heat are straddling the bottom third of the league in defensive efficiency over the course of the entire season to date, and wonder if that’s the real cause for concern here.
6) If you want to criticize anything LeBron did last night, then honestly, God help me, Skip Bayless had a point in that tweet I linked earlier. He criticized LeBron for not attacking the basket, and sure enough, he only shot three free throws last night. That’s about half of his season average, and barely a third of what he’s averaged over his career. When the most unstoppable physical force in the league drives to the basket, there’s a good chance he’ll wind up at the line. It might have been harder to erase the Heat’s deficit all at once that way, but what LeBron tried didn’t work either.
(Side note: another possible cause for concern is that LeBron’s missing those freebies at a much higher rate than he ever has – his 64.8 free throw percentage this season is a full ten percentage points below his career average. He was 1-for-3 last night.)
7) This graphic – and the cherry-picked stat it offers as evidence – comes off as a lame attempt to resurrect a storyline I and many, many others thought was finally dead and buried (and was relieved was dead and buried) – the “Can LeBron get it done at the end of games?!?!?!?!” “question.” I put “question” in quotes because come on, people, we’re better than this. We should have been done with this line of questioning even before the Heat won it all last year, but now that they have, it’s especially grating to see a major outlet scratch and claw to keep such a tired trope going.
LeBron’s not above reproach, but ramming this manufactured controversy in our faces gives me nightmare visions of it happening again and again, over the course of the season until the Heat ether win it all again (which will apparently do less to quiet dumb LeBrontroversies than we all might have hoped), or lose, at which point I’m now terrified that the “LEBRON UNCLUTCH!!!!!” meme will come roaring back to more vibrant, awful life than ever. I thought the idea was finally dead. This graphic proves that at the very least, it’s a zombie. I’m not usually scared of the threat of a zombie uprising. For this, I’ll make an exception.