Michael Jordan in the clutch vs. LeBron James

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This is not a slam on LeBron James. This is not about who is the better player in the clutch, Michael Jordan or LeBron. Or who is the better player, period (not sure that’s a debate right now).

It’s about the attitude Jordan had, what Jordan learned, and what LeBron James needs to pick up to take the next step.

Over at TrueHoop today, Henry Abbott pulled out a quote from Michael Jordan’s book “Driven from Within” where the legend talks about what was running through his mind at the clutch moments of games.

If I miss a shot, so what? Maybe even a shot that could have won a game. I can deal with that. If I don’t miss the shot, then I don’t miss it — we win. I can rationalize the fact that there are only two outcomes: You either make it, or you miss it. I could think that way because I knew I had earned the opportunity to take that shot.

Notice the lack of concern about the outcome — Michael Jordan has moved past the fear of failure, past the fear about what might happen. We can debate how clutch Kobe Bryant is, but Kobe is in that same mental place — he wants and feels he has earned that shot, and if he misses he will take the next one without hesitation. Kobe or MJ may miss, but they don’t think about the outcome, it’s being in that moment.

In the NBA finals (certainly not against the Bulls, however), in the big moments LeBron seemed to be thinking about the outcome not the shot. He was not in the moment. That may or may not have anything to do with preparation — Jordan talks about how he worked to feel as prepared as he could for that moment; LeBron works at his game, whether or not he really feels prepared for that moment is impossible for anyone but him to say.

But that is the step LeBron has to take, however he does it. It an ironic twist, he is not going to get the outcome he wants until he can move past thinking about the outcome. That is the lesson Jordan can teach.