Posted by Neil Paine on May 12, 2010
Here are 4 miserable games by 2 great players vs. the Boston Celtics in the Big Three era:
The first is LeBron James' game last night. Who are the other 3?
Much has been made about how disappointing James' performance was last night, and it certainly was. It was awful. The entire Cavaliers team, save for Shaquille O'Neal, struggled. Criticism of James & the Cavs' play in last night's game is totally deserved.
But two things stand out to me about the reaction to the "LeBacle":
- As Henry Abbott wrote about here, there's now a great deal of backlash against James on the basis of one game, one bad performance. People are even saying that this puts the Kobe-LeBron debate to rest. My response to this: look at the stats at the beginning of this post! Have you forgotten how badly Bryant played vs. Boston in the Finals 2 years ago? After those games, especially the elimination game in which the Lakers were whooped 131-92, people were saying that Kobe's legacy was "tarnished forever"... Fast forward a year, and he was an NBA champion again, legacy stronger than ever. I know we have a tendency to be shortsighted and reactionary as a culture, but the same people criticizing LeBron James today have to look no further than Kobe Bryant's history to see that one bad game against a strong defense is hardly enough to ruin someone's legacy.
- The critics are also acting as though LeBron missed all those shots in any empty gym. Um, don't you think maybe the Celtics had a little to do with James' nightmare game? Just like they perhaps played a role in Bryant's Finals meltdown in 2008? Or is it just a coincidence that 2 of the greatest players of all time have disappeared in big moments against the same defense?
Anyway, it galls me to see people drawing conclusions about James' character from a weak game vs. the Boston Celtics. It's not the first time he's had a bad game against this defense. He's not the first future Inner-Circle player these Celtics have shut down and embarrassed in a big spot. And a poor performance against them (with his legacy supposedly on the line) didn't stop Kobe Bryant from winning a title just one year later. So why are we jumping to the conclusion that LeBron James is suddenly a weak-willed choker on the basis of last night's game?