But that absence of a title matters when comparing them to players who have similar stats and wear championship jewelry.
This is where James thus far has fallen short.
In his eighth NBA season, James is seeking his first championship. The anti-James crowd offers this as proof he’s more hype than substance and carries the “non-clutch gene.”
James is only 26 years old. He took the Cavaliers as far as they could go without having another star on their roster and then left to team with Dwyane Wade, who already earned his championship cred, and Chris Bosh in hopes of building something great.
Problem is, in the Finals, James has faded in what Magic Johnson refers to as “winning time.” James went missing on offense for long stretches — especially in the final quarters — as the Heat lost Games 4 and 5.
Although he continued to facilitate others with great passes, James needed to score more points. That’s what great players do.
The expectation is that less-talented teammates will miss shots in the biggest moments. Stars are paid to win games. Wade aggressively took charge in the losses. James, a two-time league MVP, needed to act similarly.
James had a triple-double in Game 5 (17 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists). He also scored just two points in the fourth quarter, and that was after the outcome had been decided.
In the first five games, Nowitzki has scored 52 points in the fourth quarters combined. James has produced 11. Those numbers can’t be ignored with a championship at stake.
After Scottie Pippen’s recent ill-advised Michael Jordan-James comparison, James has been crushed on Twitter for his disappearing act. Jordan and James are alike only in their uniqueness.
Wade is more like Jordan in that he’s a prolific scorer. On offense, James is the best ballhandler and passer of his size since Magic. On defense, he’s a great on-ball defender capable of guarding multiple positions as Pippen once did so well.
James is not Jordan. That’s just not the way he plays the game. But facing elimination and the possibility of squandering everything it has worked for, the Heat needs James to be a lot more than he has been, or at least closer to who Nowitzki is right now.