Let’s get right down to it, shall we? The Miami Herald asked LeBron James if the pressure was “getting to him” whatever that means. His answer was clear, decisive, forceful. And by that I mean it was none of those things:
“No, I don’t think so,” James said.
“I don’t believe so,” James said.
One more try.
“I know I’m not,” James said.
The question of how mentally tough LeBron is had been settled, we thought. After all, let’s make this clear as can be, without James, the Heat are not here. They’re wondering how the Celtics beat them six times out of eight. Or they’re wondering how the Chicago Bulls rendered them irrelevant. It was James’ play that got them to this point. But all that confidence has been washed away amid a sea of missed jumpers and what looks like passive play. (It’s passive play, all right. He’s passing out of double and triple-teams. The horror!)
James has always been held to the most ridiculous standards possible, in part because of his talent, in part because of his attitude, in part because that’s how our society works. But in not giving forthright answers to these questions, it seems more and more like he’s coming apart. His coach told him to take some time away from basketball. He started watching film at 3AM. He said he needed to be more aggressive. He stopped playing inside in the fourth quarter. He said he needed to step up. He didn’t.
What are we going to do to him as a media, as a league fanbase, as a NBA watching public if he fails, not just fails, but fails like this on the biggest stage after being up 2-1? We’ll find out if the Heat can’t win the next two games.