Down Goes James …

“Old Lesson for All: there are NO SHORTCUTS. NONE.” – Dan Gilbert, Owner of Cleveland Cavaliers

Last night the Dallas Mavericks won the NBA championship over the Miami Heat. Most of America (including me) was pulling for the Mavericks. While I actually do prefer the Mavs to the Heat, much of the Dallas preference was due to anti-LeBron James sentiment. (For the record, I pulled for Dallas when these two met in the finals back in 2006 too – and LeBron was not part of that discussion.)

As expected, the story this morning is just as much about LeBron James and “failure” as it is about Dallas and success. As such, I thought I’d add my commentary …

LeBron Needs Help …

LeBron James is missing something. He doesn’t have the things he needs to win a title, or to be a great champion. This isn’t a character flaw, and it isn’t a question of “supporting cast” – he needs help of a different sort.

It is often said that the only person who could hold Michael Jordan under 20 points was Dean Smith. Smith, of course, was Jordan’s coach at UNC (go Tarheels!!). I think the time at UNC did Jordan some good. Not that he needed to “learn the game” as pundits like Dick Vitale will claim – no, you can learn the game quite well in the pros (possibly better, actually). What Michael Jordan got at UNC was a coach that would explain to him that indeed, his [excrement] did stink. Michael would do the things that Dean Smith asked of him or he would not play. That’s it.

Has LeBron James ever faced a situation where a coach would put his foot down? Has any coach ever told him that he wasn’t pulling his weight, that his effort was lacking, that his focus was lacking, that he wasn’t playing the game the right way? When was the last time a coach benched LeBron James to send a message?

LeBron James has physical abilities and basketball skills to be one of the greatest ever – if not the greatest. But he needs some help. He needs somebody to tell him that this loss was his fault. He needs a coach to tell him that he isn’t playing well, he isn’t playing with focus, he isn’t doing the right things on the basketball court. If he gets that, then he will win many championships.

Coaching the Miami Heat – 2012

I feel for Eric Spoelstra, coach of the Miami Heat. I doubt he’ll have his job next year. Pat Riley will gladly fire a coach if he feels that the team should be championship caliber but isn’t playing up to muster (ask Stan Van Gundy from 2006).

I think Spoelstra did a great job this year as a strategist and tactician. He simplified the game and focused his team of the straight-forward aspects of the game that would lead to victory … and he was usually right.

What he didn’t do, as mentioned above, was tell LeBron James to get his act together. (OK, I don’t actually know anything about the goings-on of Miami Heat practice – but if LeBron’s game play is any indication, then nobody ever told him to get his act together.)

If I were Pat Riley, I’d find $10 million and coax Phil Jackson out of retirement. You throw this kind of talent at Phil and he’ll turn it into a champion overnight. He’ll also get James to play like a champion (which he has not thus far). I doubt that will happen, but that’s what I’d do.

A “Victory” for Cleveland

This is a small Pyrrhic victory for Cleveland fans, who feel burned by LeBron James. I suppose they have their day. Still, the future is brighter for Miami that Cleveland (but the Cavs will put a serviceable team together in the near future).

LeBron Needs More Help

Speaking of Cleveland fans and LeBron needing help – the post game questioning really revealed some more help needed by Mr. James. When asked how it feels to have all those people pulling against him and celebrating his downfall, LeBron responded (I’m paraphrasing): “It doesn’t really matter, ’cause it doesn’t change anything. They may get a few days of happiness from me losing, but they’re still going to have to get back to the real world.”

Let me translate: “It doesn’t really matter. I’m great, they’re all losers. Soon enough they’ll have to get back to their pathetic, loser lives while I go off and live in my mansion as a super hero.”

The correct answer, LeBron, in case you’re reading this blog: “Hey, the game is all about the fans. The game doesn’t exist without the fans. I wish I had more pulling for me than against me, but the fact that they’re interested an invested in the game is great for our sport. I wish them all the best.”

This is not the end of LeBron James. He has too much talent to not get the things he needs to succeed. He’ll get there, maybe even next year. For now though, he’ll have to learn to regain focus as the crowds rejoice in his failure.

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