James has been superb this season in knowing when to dominate and when to sublimate his massive skill set to those of teammates. It’s a tricky balance. This constant refrain that James somehow is underachieving because he plays well with others, doesn’t impose his will and posterize himself at every opportunity, is ludicrous and perpetuated by people with less talent who wish they lived in South Beach.
To restore a little perspective, go back and listen to some vintage Phil Jackson.
Dirk Nowitzki scored 10 of his 21 points in the final period as the Mavericks outscored Miami 21-9 over the final 10:12 for an 86-83 victory in Game 4 of the NBA finals Tuesday night. LeBron James scored just eight points in defeat. (June 8)
"Calling LeBron boorish is an understatement."
“The fact is, selflessness is the soul of teamwork,” Jackson said a few years ago to EnlightenNext magazine. “We have a practical rule in our game: When you stop the basketball — when it resides in your presence and you hold it for longer than two counts — you’ve destroyed our rhythm. When the ball is in your hands, you become the focal point. And when you become the focus, our system breaks down. It’s that simple.”
This isn’t to deny James’s immense ego — witness the way he left Cleveland, designing a TV special around himself. The LeBron Show was undoubtedly a mistake.
If you admire him less because of that vulgar display, or because he wears a tattoo that says Chosen One, fine. But that has nothing to do with basketball.
James doesn’t need to prove he can take over games for his legacy. Anyone who watched his head-smacking performance in 2007, when as a 22-year-old he put Cleveland on his back and dragged it to the NBA Finals, already knows he can do that. What he needs to prove is that he can anchor a championship team.
It’s refreshing — and healthy — to see James turn the NBA ethic right-side-up again, to have a great star whose every instinct is not selfish but collaborative.
If you need further reminding of the value of that to a team, read some more Phil Jackson.
“It doesn’t matter how good individual players are — they can’t compete with a team that is awake and aware and trusts each other. People don’t understand that. Most of the time, everybody’s so concerned about not being disrespected. But you have to check that attitude at the door — that defensiveness, that protection of your own image and reputation. Everybody needs help in this game.”