Dallas Mavericks

A Postmortem on the Miami Heat

Mark Cuban’s Dallas Mavericks led by the German shot-making machine, Dirk Nowitzki, won the 2010-11 NBA title, but that storyline has always been secondary to the rise and fall of what has evolved into the most scrutinized, celebrated and vilified North American professional sports team – the Miami Heat.

After enjoying its most successful season in recent memory, the NBA will most likely head into a summer lockout imposed by the August and dictatorial Derr Kommissar David Stern. Ratings were up, interest in the league was high, the NBA Finals was manna from heaven for sports radio and the blogosphere, and all of this can be attributed to one 25-year-old athlete declaring in the summer of 2010, “I’m going to take my talents to South Beach.”

That one sentence uttered by LeBron James has been seared into our collective sports conscious. LeBron’s line, which had to be viewed as an innocuous statement by Maverick Carter’s marketing mafia, has risen to the level of:

“Practice?” – Allen Iverson

 “Playoffs?” – Jim Mora 

LeBron James’ nine words immediately galvanized nearly an entire nation to despise Miami’s Big Three. Fans were offended that a 25-year-old multimillionaire would dare to leave the cultural paradise of northeast Ohio, for a city, where supermodels are as common as a December snowflake off of Lake Erie.

Miami Heat President Pat Riley was the mastermind of this nefarious scheme to take over the world of professional basketball. This is the same Riles that has shown a disdain for international scouting and a reluctance to view the NBA Draft as a source of emerging talent. Riles has always viewed the NBA mega star as the salvation of a franchise – and LeBron James was the Holy Grail of NBA free agents. A 25-year-old with the build of Karl Malone, the speed of Michael Cooper, point guard quickness, NBA Finals experience – and his good friend was Dwayne Wade.

After Riley and his street agent Dwayne Wade successfully recruited Chris Bosh, LeBron James was primed to leave Dan Gilbert’s Cleveland Cavaliers for Micky Arison’s Miami Heat. And then we all watched “The Decision”  – the most ineffective and abrasive marketing scheme since Coke attempted to foist New Coke on America’s caffeine addicts – and most of us experienced heavy hearts for Cleveland’s long-suffering sports fans and unveiled contempt for Miami’s apathetic and contemptibly front-running contingent.

Riles had accomplished the impossible. Or was it really Dwayne Wade and Worldwide Wes that had choreographed the most headline-grabbing summer in NBA history?

Overnight the Miami Heat had morphed into the NBA’s most-hated team. How could LeBron James leave Cleveland? How dare LeBron James attempt to win a NBA championship by uniting with two of the game’s elite players?

LeBron James became the target and focal point of our anti-Heat mania. He had corrupted the game, gamed free agency, and was tarnishing a league that still heard media types make Tim Donaghy accusations.

As fans, we gave Riles a pass. We viewed Chris Bosh as a throw-in. Dwayne Wade was innocent of wrong-doing. But LeBron James was guilty.

Guilty of what? We weren’t quite sure, because as sports fans we have decided an athlete shouldn’t be able to decide his future unless that athlete wants to join our team, and wouldn’t it be better for sports to return to a pre-Curt Flood era where athletes stayed with one team for perpetuity and only a team could move an athlete?

LeBron James asserted a right that most Americans cherish. The right to work and live where we want to – but LeBron James was different. This is about sports. The world of sports is where human beings should accept less than market value for their services – and we refer to that as a “hometown discount.” LeBron James did take less money to play with the Heat, but we viewed that as an abomination. The Miami Heat was anti-American and Lebron James was an Obama socialist accepting less money to play in South Beach. Our society was unraveling and James was the catalyst for an American Empire in decline.

The Aftermath

Miami Heat President Pat Riley – Riles walked away from the scene of the crime with nary an accusation thrown at him. Once again, Pat Riley has shown he is the Teflon Don of the NBA. We can now all plainly see that Erik Spoelstra is no Pat Riley, and Riles would have used his years of coaching experience to successfully lead the Heat to a title. (Unless Riles knows a really good sports psychologist for LeBron James, that was never going to happen.)

Miami Heat Coach Erik Spoelstra – Erik Spoelstra may need months to recover from what had to be one of the toughest coaching jobs in recent memory. Spoelstra was assigned the task of coaching D Wade, King James and C Bosh. How receptive do you think these three are to coaching?

I believe it was the Eastern Conference Finals, versus the Chicago Bulls, where LeBron was asked about the effectiveness of Miami’s zone defense that ignited a Heat run. King James refused to acknowledge the strength of Spoelstra’s coaching move, and said he thought the team simply played with more energy and passion. Spoelstra should have thanked King James for the bitch slap. How dare anyone believe that coaching could help Miami’s fabled Big Three?

Spoelstra was given the most talented team in the NBA, but he was also given a team susceptible to crying jags, a player who would shoulder bump the coach, a squad that complained about its early season minutes, a dynamic duo that could manufacture a cough into an insulting viral video, and Spoelstra battled all of this with the specter of Pat Riley standing in the wings, poised to pull another Stan Van Gundy coaching execution..

Critics will offer that Spoelstra was outcoached by Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle. It’s difficult to be out coached when no one is sure how receptive any of Miami’s Big Three were to Spoelstra’s coaching. In Game 7, ABC’s cameras recorded Spoelstra imploring his team to play with, “mental stability.” Clearly, LeBron James wasn’t receiving that message.

The NBA is a player’s league, and Miami’s Big Three failed its coach.

Chris Bosh – Chris Bosh got the job done in the playoffs. Bosh may be the one person who is immune from blame. He can take home a smiley face and proudly display it on his refrigerator for the summer.

Dwyane Wade – From most members of the media, and fans, Dwyane Wade has received a pass. Wade played hard in the NBA Finals, was clearly the best player for the Heat versus the Mavericks, and people realized that D Wade was the leader of this team.

If D Wade is the leader of this team – and it appears he is – Wade has to be held responsible for the play of LeBron James in the NBA Finals. At the end of Game 3, Wade attempted to light a fire under his running mate, but LeBron couldn’t get out of his own way.

The leader – and it wasn’t Erik Spoelstra, has to be figure out a way to get his franchise player back in the game. Wade recruited the guy to South Beach, developed a strong friendship with The King, and he needed to find a way to buck up his fragile friend’s psyche.

Being a leader, D Wade never should have been so immature as to drag LeBron into Coughgate. A leader has to avoid those situations. At that, point in the Finals, no one on the Heat needed to operate under any more pressure, or media scrutiny and Wade has to understand that.

Wade played hard, but the defeat of the Heat should be placed equally on the shoulders of both himself and LeBron.

LeBron James – We want LeBron James to be the next Michael Jordan, but he is a much different person than MJ. MJ was brought up in a two-parent home, he was one of five children to Deloris and James Jordan, and he wasn’t anointed a basketball god pre-high school. People want to correctly point out that Jordan never lost in the NBA Finals, but he didn’t play in and win an NBA Finals until he was 27. LeBron is 26.

Buzz Bissinger’s “Shooting Stars” details ”The Wire”/ Dickensian childhood experienced by LeBron James in Akron with his mother, Gloria James. Gloria James was evicted or simply lost numerous apartments, LeBron went to live with friends’ families, his father was never a part of his life, and this is a childhood that produced one of the world’s greatest athletes. It’s amazing that LeBron is where he is at the age of 26 (After making a lot of loot off of LeBron, Bissinger has displayed utter contempt for James through his Twitter feed).

It’s been documented that Gloria James has issues with substance abuse and alcohol. She also has a Delonte West problem, but let’s save that for another time. LeBron James is probably the adult in this relationship with his mother, takes care of Gloria, and should be applauded for that.

But we all are products of our upbringing. If anyone has noticed, and I’m sure you have, LeBron disappears when things get tight or frenetic on the court. He isn’t comfortable when things become alien to him or he starts shooting jumpers like Ben Wallace. The reaction is fight or flight – and LeBron has the tendency to flee. Based on his childhood, wouldn’t you want to get away from Gloria James’ dysfunctional world?

When D Wade started whispering in LeBron’s ears about establishing an NBA colossus in Miami, LeBron had to be open to his older friend’s powers of seduction. LeBron could relate to D Wade. D Wade could have been LeBron’s older brother, and he could trust Wade.

There isn’t much in LeBron’s background to suggest he should trust adults. King James has surrounded himself with a coterie of advisors, the Maverick Carter mafia, who are his peers. LeBron never looked for MJ’s David Falk to shepherd his career – he has seemingly only trusted his boys from Akron and Worldwide Wes.

LeBron James may be the most unique elite athlete to garner the world’s attention, because the story of his success is so improbable. We can all revel in his demise versus the Mavericks, because of the ham-handed and tone-deaf execution of “The Decision”, but there is more to admire about this guy than insult.

Dallas Mavericks – Sadly, this will become the NBA Finals that LeBron and the Heat lost – and not the culmination of Mark Cuban’s odyssey to win a championship.

 At the end of Game 3, where Miami’s Chris Bosh nailed the game-winner, Rick Carlisle noticed that the team was playing better with J.J. Barea on the court. After Game 3, Carlisle made the decision to move Barea into the starting lineup, have the world champion public urinater DeShawn Stephenson come off the bench, and Barea then tore it up against the Heat.

The Painted Area’s “On Jason Kidd and ‘Win Time’, and the Greatest Clutch Lineup on Earth” argues that the Mavericks are one of the most forward-thinking teams when it comes to the use of metrics, and that Rick Carlisle’s coaching staff is advised of the best five to use versus the various lineups presented by opposing teams. The Dallas analytics unit travels with the team.

The Painted Area writes:

 Also, note that another thing Cuban said at the Sloan Conference was that he thought that one of the biggest edges for him was in understanding 5-man lineup performance. Considering that Beech is the creator of 82Games.com, which is where those clutch +/- stats are from, and that he works directly with the Dallas coaching staff, I’m sure the organization is well aware of these numbers.

Have Mark Cuban and Roland Beech found something here? Have they discovered the ultimate clutch lineup? I included the total minutes as a reminder that these are ridiculously small sample sizes. Note that these same metrics show LeBron James to be a premier clutch performer over the last several seasons, which has not translated to clutch play in these Finals, after he was very clutch vs. Boston and Chicago. Please also note the irony that these same clutch Mavs were victims of one of the greatest playoff comebacks ever, in the Easter Saturday resurrection of Brandon Roy in the first round.

The J.J. Barea move was probably as much about metrics as it was about feel or a gut instinct. To combat the Heat colossus, Mark Cuban’s Mavericks had to utilize every arrow in the quiver and Roland Beech’s analysis may have been a difference-maker. The Heat seem to rely far less on statistical analysis, but do rely heavily on the ability of LeBron and D Wade to knock down outside shots.

Could this be the first NBA Finals where the most talented team in the league was defeated by a guy with a pocket protector?

Miami Heat – Roundball pundits are pointing to Miami’s defeat, and they suggest the Heat need to add a veteran point guard and a low post scorer.

Does anyone watch the games?

Mario Chalmers can be a little erratic, but the third-year pro showed tremendous heart and a willingness to take big shots. The Heat need to allow Chalmers to develop, which probably makes Pat Riley umcomfortable, but Chalmers can play.

Miami needs a low post scorer: Let me introduce you to Chris Bosh and LeBron James. The NBA isn’t Target, where a team can walk down the aisle and pick up a low post scorer or point guard, before they hit the check-out line.

The 2010-11 edition of the Miami Heat had enough talent to win. Sometimes the blame has to fall on the players. If Dirk Nowitzki doesn’t make two game-winning drives, Miami sweeps the series. To win a ring, every possession is crucial. The Dallas Mavericks seemed to appreciate that fact better than the Miami Heat.

Let’s get this lockout over, because I can’t wait to start rooting against the Heat again.

Related posts:

  1. Will A Miami Heat Championship Ruin David Stern’s NBA?
  2. LeBron James vs. Dwyane Wade – Who Should Be The Miami Heat’s Closer?
  3. Who is the Miami Heat Alpha Dog?
  4. Mark Heisler: The Miami Heat Dominance (5/26/11)
  5. A Crying Shame: Why Erik Spoelstra Must Go

Discussion

21 Responses to “A Postmortem on the Miami Heat”

  1. The only thing miami needs is for james to play hard each and every game for the entire game. If he does that, the heat win the title. This was a joke of a year for contenders, with most of the contenders having seriously problems and dramatically declining at certain stages of the year, should’ve been easy pickings for the supposedly juggernaut heat. Guess not. It’s the same story over and over with james, once he faces a legit team that is willing to stand up to him, he chokes, and more or less just quits. Quite surprising from a supposedly such great player. But, then again, is he really that great or is the media just pumping him up all the time? I think it’s pretty obvious that it’s the latter.

    Posted by boyer | June 18, 2011, 9:29 pm
    • Completely agree with you Boyer. The issue here wasn’t other team’s defenses, or Lebron’s need for a post-up game. It is the fact that he lacked the cajones to compete, passed up shots, and quit.

      Put another way, If Lebron came back next year with the same exact game, different heart, and more Balls, the Heat will win the championship – and Lebron won’t be stopped by the 10th ranked Dallas defense in the NBA either.

      Posted by The NBA Realist | June 20, 2011, 12:34 am
      • As of right now in james’ career, he doesn’t necessarily need to add additonal skills. But, since he relies on his athleticism so much, and once that starts to decline, if he hasn’t added other skills, he will likely decline quicker than most players.

        Also, if the heat had gone up against legit title teams, such as 08 c’s, 09 magic, 09 lakers, 10 lakers, or 10 c’s, james’ lack of additional skills would’ve been a factor, even if he was playing hard the entire series. But, as for 2011, those elite teams weren’t really there. The heat basically had it made for this past year, and really messed it up.

        Also, not to make this a kobe vs. lebron article, but kobe is a perfect example for my point. If the opposing team takes away 1 or 2 or 3 things from Kobe, he always has another option or 2 to counter with. His skill set is complete. But, if the opposing team takes away james’ driving ability, his options are greatly limited. At times, he is streaky from the perimeter, but this is much more of an exception than norm.

        Posted by boyer | June 20, 2011, 8:38 am
        • boyer, kobe doenst believe in a 2nd or 3rd option, he shoots shoots shoots regardless of how he is doing,, like his 6 fr 24 game 7 performance last year, keep in mind that same team lebron struggled with, kobe got swept by, and they lost the deciding game by 36,and btw if lebron would have played last years lakers or 09 lakers, kobe would have shot the lakers out of the series.

          Posted by samtotheg | June 20, 2011, 4:44 pm
        • This is where you and I disagree Boyer. I do not think anyone stopped Lebron but Lebron.

          Prior to facing the #10 ranked defense in the Mavs, the Heat faced the #1 ranked Bulls and #2 ranked Celtics. The Mavs did not show Lebron any defensive looks that were any different from what the Celtics and Bulls (who were better defensive teams) showed. Lebron simply played tepid, missed easy shots, and oftentimes, simply refused to shoot altogether playing “hot potato”. I really do not believe that the Mavs took away any options from Lebron since he usually takes what he wants from the defense.

          With regards to Lebron vs Kobe, and Kobe’s flexible aresenal, to me it is like saying that you would prefer Patrick Ewing over Shaquille O’Neal because Ewing had a variety of moves that he could fall back on. I’m taking Shaq because his physical skills and limited moves were so overwhelming that they offset any variety that other players may offer, and the shooting percentages substantiate that.

          Again, not to beat up on Kobe, because Lebron’s performance was horrible, and at least Kobe tried when he failed, but what people forget is that despite having 4-5 different weapons in his arsenal, Kobe still shot:
          - 13/39 (33%) in fourth quarters in the 2009 Finals
          - 12/40 (30%) in fourth quarters in the 2010 Finals,
          - 38.1% overall in 2004 Finals
          - 36.7% overall in 2000 Finals
          - 40.5% overall in 2010 Finals
          - 43% overall in 2009 Finals
          - 40.5% in the 2008 Finals

          In essence, my point is that having multiple weapons is not as important as the results that you can get with them.

          Posted by The NBA Realist | June 20, 2011, 5:32 pm
          • You need to watch the games a little bit closer, realist. Even when lebron gives full effort, good defensive teams or even teams with just good defensive strategies can keep lebron out of the paint and make him shoot jumpers, for the most part. Lebron can still have great games from time to time against these types of defenses, but he won’t be as effective.

            The stats you mention might not look that good on the outside, but once again you fail to look past the stats much. Kobe was absolutely brilliant in 09 and 10 finals. Are you really disputing that? That’s just ridiculous, but using the analogy of ewing is to shaq as kobe is to lebron is the worst argument I’ve ever seen. Kobe has shown he can lead a team all the way to the finals and win the finals without another star player. People forget that gasol had 1 AS season in 7 years in memphis, while going 0-12 in the playoffs, but now people want to say he’s the lakers mvp and mvp of the 10 finals, very funny stuff. Lebron has yet to show he can carry a team all the way, twice with the best reg. season team, which was the deepest team in the league, and now once with the most talented team, with 2 other top 10 teams, in a very watered down season of elite teams. He has put together some very great postseason performances, but has for some inexplicable reason quit on his teams each of the past 2 years. This guy doesn’t have the heart and is a mental midget at this stage of his career. Kobe has always put winning first and that is what drives him to succeed, lebron is more concerned about making money and friends, and becoming a global icon. And let’s not forget how asinine that ewing comparison was. Shaq was a greatly skilled center, too, just some different skills than ewing. They’re more or less very equal in the skill category. And that’s an entirely different position, very different, I almost think you’re joking, but with you, I wouldn’t be surprised that you weren’t.

            Posted by boyer | June 21, 2011, 3:39 pm
          • You are obviously extremely pro-Kobe, so there is no point in arguing and I will let you be. But to respond directly to your questions:

            Yes – I am actually saying that missing 66% of shots in the 4Q of close games during the 2009 NBA Finals, and 70% of shots in the 4Q of close games during the 2010 Finals, and going 6/24 in the most important legacy defining game of your career (and directly acknowledging that you played horrible), and shooting 40.5% overall in 2010 and 43% in 2009 – is shockingly NOT brilliant. Call me crazy.
            Perhaps your standard for Kobe’s capabilities and excellence in an NBA Finals is low – but my expectations are higher; At a minimum, I expect the player to play to the level that they did during the regular season.

            Conversely, (and to ensure that I take the “Hater” card away from your pocket) Kobe’s performance during the 2010 WCF against Phoenix, in which he shot 52% and averaged 34pts 7 reb, and 8 assists – WAS brilliant.

            Regardless, since you want to ignore stats completely, I am not quite sure what you found to be so brilliant about Kobe’s performance during those Finals? Was there a legacy defining game that I missed that made him brilliant? Was there a ‘moment’ that I overlooked that caused him to be brilliant? Just because Kobe won the Finals MVPs does not mean that he played a great series? Its no different that Jordan’s subpar performance in 1996, or Duncan’s in 2005 – it is absolutely possible for an Alpha Dog to play poorly, yet his team still win the series.

            Second, to sit there and say that Kobe has never played with another star causes you to lose all credibility.

            • Andrew Bynum has proven that when Gasol is out that he is a 20-10 guy and a definitive All-Star if he were on another team. His only challenge is health, but feel free to check the game logs
            • Ron Artest, is a former defensive player of the year, has been the Alpha Dog on prior playoff teams, and has been an All-Star.
            • Yes, Pau Gasol was an All-Star only once when he was with the Grizzlies. But could it be that the reason that he failed to make the All-Star team has less to do with his performance and more to do with circumstances? Could it be that big men such as Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Garnett, Yao Ming were simply better and repeatedly and deservedly selected ahead of him every year? Could it be that he would have absolutely been an All-star had be played for an Eastern Conference team in which he would have then been selected ahead of guys like Antawn Jamison or Ben Wallace? Gasol’s teams may have gotten swept out of playoffs in the past, but thats what happens when your second best player is Mike Miller. There is no way you can make a case that Gasol’s teams were better than any of the teams that they lost to meaning that he lost to the teams he was supposed to lose to, while overachieving with 5th/6th seed finishes during the regular season.
            • In my opinion, Lamar Odom is also an All-Star on most other teams and I am fairly confident that I am not alone in that regard.

            Yes, these players stats and accolades may not reflect their full potential, but that is what happens when you play with an Alpha Dog who demands the ball. Personal stats and accolades become compromised. Regardless, those Laker team’s possessed one of the most talented starting lineups in the last 20 years, and there was not a single team that they defeated that had more talent than they did.

            You have also taken my comments out of context. The Shaq-Ewing comparison was done to make a point – that you do not need multiple moves or weapons on offense to be effective and having one or two dominant weapons can be better than having 3-4 good weapons. Of course Shaq is a better player than Ewing. And I absolutely believe that Lebron’s 1-2 moves are better than Kobe’s 4-5 and the shooting percentages provide ample evidence.

            Lastly, I think we now know that Lebron’s ability to lead teams to the best record in the NBA 2 years in a row is more the byproduct of overachieving during the regular season, than it is his failure due to win championships. His second best player was Mo Williams (who btw would be in 4th best player on the Lakers) and there is only so far that one can go without stars.

            The only thing that I will acknowledge is that Lebron perhaps is inconsistent in the mental toughness department. However, what you fail to ignore is Kobe’s performance against Dallas this year was not much better. Was there a single game in that series where Kobe “found a way to win”?

            Other than that, it sounds like you conveniently cherry picked quotes from the fly-on-the wall journalists around the Internet without truly looking under the covers.

            Posted by The NBA Realist | June 21, 2011, 5:57 pm
          • Who cares if Kobe just made 1/10. Didn’t Dirk make 1/12 in th first half. The difference between the James and Kobe and Dirk is that the latter don’t quit. You can see it their attitude, their drive, their will, their body language. So they are always a constant threat and you know that they will make a great play down the stretch. With James, even DeShawn Stevenson sees his loser body language down the stretch and it just trickles down to the entire team. The only real stat that matters is if you get the win not your FG%. If we just look at stats as to who is the better player, even MJ won’t compare to Oscar Robertson, or Magic overall. But, why is MJ the greatest? Its because his body language is saying “I’m gonna drive this basketball down your throat”

            Posted by Bratnix | June 25, 2011, 2:43 pm
          • Brantix: I am not sure how comparing Dirk’s first half stats to Kobe’s fourth quarter stats is an apples to apples comparison. Kobe was 33% and 30% in fourth quarters of the last 2 NBA Finals. Dirk was not. Period.

            I agree with you that Lebron essentially quit during these past Finals. It was inexcusable. However, your “constant threat” theory with regards to Kobe is flawed for multiple reasons:

            1.) Which great play did Kobe make down the stretch against the Mavs during the playoffs? Didn’t he miss the Gw shot in Game 1? Just curious.
            2.) Being a constant threat is pointless if you don’t make plays.
            3.) Kyle Korver is a constant threat at the end of fourth quarters as are hundreds of players. Are you really saying that you would take them over Lebron?

            Lastly, I am not sure which stats you are looking at, but you do realize that there are more categories than Rebounds and Assists (the only 2 categories that Oscar and Magic are better), don’t you? I’m not sure how you believe that Magic or Oscar has better stats considering that each of Jordan’s scoring and defensive stats were better.

            What made MJ who he was wasn’t that he won the most championships, but that he won every time he was expected to win AND had the stats to prove it.

            Posted by The NBA Realist | June 25, 2011, 4:33 pm
          • This sort of revisionist history makes me want to pull my hair out. You say Dirk and Kobe never quit? Remember Dirk getting fried after the 2006 Finals for failing to close the deal in game 3? And after the 2007 first round loss to the Warriors, the consensus opinion was that he was a quitter and a choker. It’s hard to remember given his recent and well-deserved public lovefest, but one month ago this very website posted an article asking if Dirk would ever be “tougher than soft-serve ice cream.” I love Dirk as a player, but to use him as an example of never quitting is not going to work.

            As for Kobe, there are multiple egregious examples of him quitting. The worst is probably the 2006 NBA playoffs, in which the Lakers blew a 3-1 lead against the Suns. Kobe scored 50 in game 6 vs the Suns, but his team lost and he was accused of being a ballhog. What did he do in game 7? He pouted, took only 16 shots including 3 in the 2nd half despite being his team’s only real scoring option, and watched as his team lost by 31 points. In 2008, in game 6 vs the Celtics, he went 7-22 from the floor to score 22 points, had 3 boards and got 1 assist as his team lost by 39. And in the 4th game of this year’s playoffs, when the Mavs completed their embarrassing sweep of the Lakers, Kobe goes 7-18 from the floor and scores 18 points to go with 3 boards, 1 assist, and 5 turnovers as his team completely unraveled around him. Frankly, Kobe played beneath himself in the Finals even when his teams won in 2009 and 2010 (unless you don’t believe in analyzing data and prefer to base your opinions on, well, opinions), and history has shown that when the Titanic goes down Kobe can usually be found shuffling deck chairs.

            Lebron had a historically impotent finals in 2011 and appeared to quit during game 5 against the Celtics last year. He was awful in his first finals against the Spurs. As a frequent underachiever, that puts him in the same category as every other superstar in the NBA right now.

            MJ is the best player of all time if you only use statistics. Nobody else is close. Of course, the rest of MJ’s resume is impeccable, too. That’s why he’s almost universally lauded as the GOAT. If you want the guy with the best body language, I’ll take Isiah Thomas.

            Posted by Lochpster | June 25, 2011, 6:24 pm
        • I can’t agree that the league was worse this year than in the past few. The Lakers and Celtics had the same supporting casts as last year, at least until the Perkins trade. The Heat, Bulls and Thunder were newly elite squads. The Spurs resurrected themselves. Perennial contenders like Dallas and Orlando were in the mix as usual. Teams like Denver, Atlanta, Memphis, Portland and New York were dangerous sleepers. The only teams who got significantly worse since last year were the Cavs and Suns. To me, that argument just seems like one more reason to pile on Lebron. Trust me, there are plenty of other reasons to pile on him.

          Also, I’m not sure why Kobe is a counterpoint to Lebron’s failures. Kobe’s a guy who shoots a lot, at a lower level of efficiency than he should, and his determination to get a shot off is frequently a hindrance to his team. He’s the greatest HORSE player ever, but there’s almost no reason to take some of the ridiculous shots he tries.

          On the topic of longevity, Lebron’s not only been a more efficient scorer throughout his career, but he’s been a better ballhandler and distributor. I think those skills have more staying power than scoring in the NBA than being a scorer. Of the 10 oldest active players, four are ballhandler/distributor/efficient but low volume scorer types (Grant Hill, Jason Kidd, Steve Nash, Derrick Fisher) while the rest are big men-not one of them is a primary scorer.

          The real issue for Lebron is what’s going on in his brain. If he can get that straightened out, there’s nobody in the league who can stop him.

          Posted by Lochpster | June 21, 2011, 12:05 am
          • Please,

            We must stop with the demonizing of LeBron James. I am hardly a worshiper of James, as I believe that he is an abused byproduct of the over hype marketing machine led by ESPN and their legions of dullards seeking to attach verbs and nouns together to help sell impotency drugs and hair replacement systems.

            One shudders what to think would have happened to Magic Johnson had ESPN been as prevalent in 1977 and brought phonies like Vitale to cover his HS games; with every sports talk radio host in the nation declaring Magic as the greatest player EVER when he was 17!!! (I had the privilege of growing up in Lansing, MI and the hype was already unreal)

            James is averaging 27.7 PPG, and 7.0 RPG and 7 APG. He is one of only THREE players to do so, the others being Magic and Oscar Robertson.

            You want to really compare James to Kobe??
            James has a career .479 FG%
            Bryant had a SEASON high of .468. The true comparison is unfair to both players as James has been asked to take the role of floor leader and distributor rather than shooter/scorer.

            And when talking of Kobe and his greatness, PLEASE do NOT overlook the wretched performance in the 2004 Finals against the Pistons. More threes than Free throws. Try to remain OBJECTIVE.

            When the Heat finally decide that the offense needs to go through James and Wade, Bosh, et al can become the beneficiaries, then the Heat will turn out the lights.

            James’ scoring should dip, but his efficiency should rise slightly.

            Posted by Paulie Walnuts | June 22, 2011, 12:21 pm
  2. Fantastic article Dave. It was well thought out and generally free of the hyperbole that’s dominated most of the post-Finals articles. That data you linked to is also really a great find-I had no idea about any of that stuff. I’ll avoid quibbling over minor points and just say keep up the good work.

    Posted by Lochpster | June 19, 2011, 3:29 pm
  3. Whose the woman in the picture with Lebron yelling and KG/Pierce restraining him?

    Posted by baller | June 19, 2011, 7:40 pm
    • His mother, Gloria James. No joke. She was mouthing off to the opponents, and Lebron was trying to communicate to her to stay out of it and sit down. A strange moment, for sure.

      Posted by Gil Meriken | June 20, 2011, 10:23 am
  4. I thought the Heat’s problem vs the Mavs (besides Lebron James disappearing act) was not playing Haslem on Dirk enough. I’m not sure if he was out of shape, or not fully recovered from his injury – but Haslem was the only Heat player that played Dirk well. Bosh needs to become a better defender and rebounder first. Low post scoring wasn’t the Heat’s problem versus the Mavericks – in my opinion.

    Posted by Adam | June 20, 2011, 9:30 am
  5. GOOD ARTICLE DAVE, JUST A LITLLE LIGHT IN THE LOCKOUT COMMENTS,THE LOCKOUT FOR NBA IS A GENUINE ISSUE ABOUT BUSINESS, OWNERS ARE LOSING MONEY, THEY NEED TO CHANGE THE STRUCTURE AND THAT IS NOT STERN FAULT.

    Posted by BURN | June 20, 2011, 12:32 pm
    • The lockout is 99.9 percent the owners fault. They are losing money because they lack the “cajones” to tell Joe Johnson he’s somply not worth a max contract…of course there are times when a player is doing very well but just simply gets injured “The Brandon Roy Exception” but other than that, you can look at alot of contracts that the owners are handing out that hang over their heads for the next 3-6 years like Damocles Sword. Hedo Turkoglu, Gil Arenas, Rashard Lewis, Joe Johnson, David Lee, Luke Walton etc… these “stars” got paid like the Kobe’s and LeBron’s of the world without the talent and ability to justify it. That’s my take anyway….

      Posted by Chris Houston | June 20, 2011, 2:14 pm
  6. Well that’s a short memory! Guess who played hardest and in 4th quarters the best to get them to the finals? And when Wade struggled then, the team stroked his ego saying it’s okay buddy you will come around. He finally scores a few important baskets in OT and suddenly he sees himself as vindicated. Then LeBron struggles probably from exhaustion as much as whatever else was going on for him (not so differently than how Wade struggled just prior), but what does Wade do to help? He didn’t, in fact he made it worse by getting in leBron’s face publicly (breaking trust and mutual treatment understanding), and proclaiming the Heat to be his team now that he was finally back. Wade and Spolestra both should have looked after their teammate a lot better, a lot sooner. When LeBron shone in the run to the Finals, everybody knew who was he better player, and Wade clearly was bothered by everybody calling them “LeBron and the Heat”. So first chance he had to stroke his ego he went for it to the detriment of the team and his supposed friend. Look at LeBron’s face when he looked at Wade during the post game interviews then. Wade revealed a lot about himself, though after watching almost every Heat game during regular season I could tell he has a tendency to put himself dirt, whereas LeBron is always willing to make unselfish passes for another teammate to make a good basket. People that don’t see this and recognize this is an excellent team approach are blind toward LeBron. The coach should have rested him when he started to struggle AND made plays for him instead of forcing him to make his own plays against double and triple teams. Spolestra did too little too late. Everyone wants to rip LeBron after amenesia for his efforts to get them the Eastern Conf Championship. Well, why the hell wouldn’t the ‘leader’ if Wade is that and the Coach do better to help their guy and the team win? I’ve played soccer and other team sports, and even I know when someone is struggling you encourage them not yell at him, call yourself the leader after he just pulled me out of a fire. Or just hope the struggles go away by doing the same thing over and over.

    Posted by B girl | June 21, 2011, 9:44 am
  7. Oops, s/b “first” as in putting himself first (not “dirt”). Also sorry for some run-on sentences. Hard to tell on a small screen…

    Posted by B girl | June 21, 2011, 9:52 am
  8. Please stop perpetuating the myth that Lebron took less money to play in Miami. It may be true that his NBA salary is slightly lower than it was in Cleveland, but when you consider that Florida has no state income tax (Ohio’s rate for people in Lebron’s bracket is $9,000 plus 5.925% of money in excess of $201,000), it is at worst a wash for him, after taxes. That’s just on his NBA salary. Now include the fact that he also make $20 to 50 million a year from endorsements, money which in Ohio would also be subject to the above tax rate, but in Florida will not be taxed at all, and you’ll see he comes out substantially ahead in Miami.

    Posted by RP | July 11, 2011, 5:30 pm

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