Although James has shied away from taking the big shot in some games, he has scored timely points, too. In one of the all-time clutch postseason performances, James scored 29 of the final 30 points for the Cavaliers in their Game 5 victory over the Detroit Pistons during the 2007 Eastern Conference finals (the Cavaliers won the series in six games).
So it’s really not that James finishes games poorly, it’s just that James is so spectacularly gifted, he should be basketball’s best closer.
Call it the Jordan Factor.
It’s simply unacceptable, after Jordan, for the most talented player (Bird is among many NBA executives who acknowledge James is without peer in sheer ability) to lack a sports killer instinct. Jordan reveled in being the Man. He craved the spotlight. The greater the pressure, the more he shouted with his play, “Get out of the way!”
Instead of sticking it out and trying to win a title with the Cavaliers, James fled Cleveland to team with fellow all-stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami. It was a very un-Michael-like thing to do. Jordan wouldn’t have left a team, entering the prime of his career, because he believed he needed more help to win, NBA insiders say. He just would have shouldered more of the load.
Around the league, other players notice. They wonder what truly drives James. Kendrick Perkins, the Oklahoma City Thunder’s center, is one player who articulated the sentiment well.
During his Twitter beef with James in February (it started when James tweeted he admired Blake Griffin’s highlight-tape dunk on Perkins), Perkins offered this razor-sharp observation: “You don’t see Kobe [Bryant] tweeting. You don’t see Michael Jordan tweeting.
“At the end of the day, the guys who are playing for the right reasons, who are trying to win championships, are not worrying about” individual plays. “I just feel [James] is always looking for attention and he wants the world to like him.”
Just like a championship, adoration is something that has eluded the world’s best basketball player. And it’s beginning to seem appropriate to wonder: Will James end his career with either?
For Jason Reid’s previous columns, go to washingtonpost.com/reid.