LeBron James, peppered with questions after Game 1 about not being aggressive enough, vowed: “Offensively I attract so much attention that if a guy is open on my team, I will pass the ball.” He added, “I believe our guys will be there to knock those shots down.” As he most famously put it, “I’ve done more and lost.”
Not only did LeBron not indulge the idea that he must carry the Heat if they were to win, he didn’t give an inch. He wants to play his way, and public pressure won’t change that.
Late in the third quarter Game 2 of the NBA Finals, LeBron’s critics smelled blood, though. The Spurs led by two points, and LeBron had scored just six points. For the Heat to win, they said, he’d have to take over, and they were losing because he refused.
But LeBron didn’t give an inch and kept playing his game.
It resulted in a 33-5 run – in which five Miami players scored with the only exceptions among those on the court being Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh – and the Heat winning, 103-84. Miami was at its best when pushing and sharing the ball, LeBron’s involvement integral but dominating.
During the decisive run, LeBron had a team-high three assists took five shots (making all five), but the only other Heat player to play the entire stretch, Mario Chalmers, took just as many shots. In fact, Chalmers led the Heat with 19 points.
LeBron knew he’d need his teammates, but did he know he’d need them this much?
In a win, LeBron’s 17 points on 7-of-17 shooting, eight rebounds, seven assists, three steals and three blocks will be a celebrated. In a loss, those same contributions would be panned. He had a triple-double in Game 1, and that wasn’t enough for goodness sakes.
That’s part of the reason pinning wins and losses on a single player is so foolhardy. It’s a team game, and if LeBron wins his second championship, it will be because his team won.
Of course, some players are more important to a team than others, and LeBron ranks near the top of that list. When he’d previously scored 17 or fewer points in a playoff games, his teams went 2-8.
But LeBron knows these Heat are deep enough and good enough to beat the Spurs without him hogging the ball, and he doesn’t have to carry the team alone.
Not that he would anyway.