Bill Simmons had a theory about how LeBron James changed as a player after the 2008 Olympics: namely, he watched the way Kobe Bryant pushed himself, the way he took over when the team needed it, thought to himself, “I have to be like that guy,” and reacted accordingly. Knowing what we know now about LeBron’s career arc since then, the fruits of any lessons he might have learned from that experience didn’t reach full bloom until this past spring and summer, but given the word out of American Airlines Arena following the Heat’s embarrassing 112-92 loss to the Knicks last night, it’s pretty clear he has taken careful note of Kobe’s work habits:
LeBron went thru an extended workout after the game on the practice court. Said Knicks “kicked our ass” & he “had to get better”
— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) December 7, 2012
We say he’s taking after Kobe, of course, since Kobe did this same thing a couple seasons ago – after a loss to LeBron’s Heat in that very same American Airlines Arena, no less. And LeBron’s refined the art of the post-embarrassing-loss workout: rather than do it right on the arena floor, he went to a more secluded practice court, all the better for avoiding accusations that the whole thing was more about PR than anything. There is, best we can tell, no footage of LeBron’s workout, unlike Kobe’s.
The question is, though: how much impact will it have? It’s the same question we had after Kobe’s version of this workout: while praising the type of work ethic that would lead someone to do that, we also wondered: how much would that hour or so of shooting really help Kobe next time out? There are diminishing returns past a certain point of practice. Same thing here: we’re with Ball Don’t Lie. The Heat will return to peak form when they start playing better defense as a team. It’s hard to see how LeBron working out alone will have much impact on that.
Still, if we’re going to praise Kobe on principle for putting more work in when he probably needed it less than any of his teammates, we have to do the same for LeBron here. If nothing else, this allows Erik Spoelstra to motivate his players by telling them that if even LeBron thinks he has to put extra work in, the rest of them better be damn well sure they need some extra work, too. Or maybe the rest of the players will see everyone talking about it and Spo won’t even have to say anything.
Either way, the Heat have to hope for a trickle-down effect where everyone else on the team hears about this and starts working really hard on contesting jumpers. If not, LeBron’s extra work will be a fun thing to talk about today… and not mean much of anything on any day beyond.
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