“Yeah, he was telling me to shoot it,” LeBron James recalled of Kobe Bryant’s message to him during the final seconds of the All-Star Game. “I wish I could have that one back.”
That was LeBron James’ recent years as an NBA player in a nutshell. Even during a meaningless exhibition game, James had the opportunity to take the final shot and give his team a chance to win but decided to pass that shot up.
What happened on Sunday was another sad example of how James refuses to rise up to the occasion. Despite all his great work during the game, when the team needed him to step up one more time late, he didn’t deliver.
A part of this is our fault as fans and media in how we perceive the basketball star. Have we kept expectations too high for James? Since he entered the league, the league has wanted to make him a star. But since he bolted to the Heat, it was clear that maybe James doesn’t want to be the star.
He has everything in his arsenal to be a superstar. He puts up superstar numbers. But he doesn’t deliver like one at the end.
It might not have been that bad had he at least given it a try at the end of the game. At least then we can say that he gave it a shot. We couldn’t fault him for trying. But that’s not James’ game. He likes to shy away from the spotlight.
So when the opportunity to take that last shot came up on Sunday, it was no surprise that James would defer that opportunity and try to make a tougher pass to teammate Dwyane Wade.
This moment, along with many moments before, suggests that James doesn’t want to be the best. He instead just wants to coast through the game and not be that great star that we’ve expected him to be. If that’s the case, then that’s how we need to perceive him now.
This isn’t to take away the skills that James does possess. He is a monster on the floor and will continue to make big plays over and over again. But ultimately when it comes down to it, James isn’t the guy that is worth trusting when the clock is ticking away in the fourth quarter.
With an opportunity to make a big shot in the face of one of the best closers in the game in Kobe Bryant, James took the backseat to the opportunity. It’s sad that even in a game full of All-Stars, James puts up numbers like one but doesn’t finish the game as one should.
It’s unfair to keep judging James for all these fourth quarter no-shows, but he continues to give us reasons to do just that.