LeBron James Silences Clutch Critics...Temporarily

LeBron James’ 14 point fourth quarter/overtime performance at home to the Pacers on Saturday night was eerily reminiscent to his all dominating, clutch performances during the Eastern Conference Semis and Finals.

He sunk the game tying three with 10 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter to send the game to overtime, after scoring 5 points in around 20 seconds. He then hit another huge three pointer in overtime to cut a 5 point lead to a one possession game. From there he found a wide open Chris Bosh, after drawing three defenders, who drained a 20ft jumper. He narrowly missed another three pointer with 20 seconds left in OT, but Dwyane Wade nailed a freakishly acrobatic shot at the buzzer to lift the Heat to their 12th consecutive home win.

James was again the spearhead of the dramatic comeback, as he has been several times over the past fortnight dating back to his heroics in the All Star Game. The main difference this time being James taking, and making, the big shots that ultimately helped decide the game.

The reason I write this is not to congratulate LeBron James, nor to marvel at what he did. Too many people are acting like this was a monumental occasion, that we we witnessed history, that this was something special.

That couldn’t be further from the truth.

Contrary to popular belief, LeBron James has done this many, many, many times before.

It continues to astound me how quickly we can draw conclusions on LeBron James that are applied to no other athlete, regardless of a similar series of events. LeBron James drains one of the most incredible game winners in the history of the league, fading away from deep three point range over Hedo Turkoglu in the Eastern Conference Semis and tying the series back in 2009. Following this people are anointing him the next great closer, as having finally found his calling. The following year he single handedly drags the Cavaliers to six games against the Celtics and is called a quitter.

The same thing happens over the course of a month last year. James puts together two series of the most incredible clutch performances we have seen in decades and is again classified as one of the great late game players. His indiscretions from the summer before are waning away and people are beginning to embrace him for the once in a generation player he is. He then, admittedly, disappears throughout the final 5 1/4 games of the Finals and becomes the walking joke not only of the NBA, but of American professional sports. His status of hate is immediately restored to what it was following his departure from Cleveland the previous July and again is labelled as a choker, a quitter and generally ‘unclutch’.

We all know he can do it. We all have seen him do it. So why do we act surprised when he does?

I want to extend a challenge to the people of America. I know it is easy and popular to sit back and watch and read everything ESPN, Fox Sports, Yahoo Sports and everywhere else you get your sports, and believe everything you see. Yes it is hugely witty and dextrous of you to come up with hugely original names like LeChoke and LeBrick. You’ll definitely pull all the girls (or boys) with a clever remark about getting three quarters as change from a LeBron James dollar.

The challenge is this. Form your own opinion. Obviously if you feel as the consensus does, you haven’t watched all that many of his games, as the consensus have not. I include the vast majority of the media in that.

ESPN and co’s ability to not only brainwash but form an angry army of regurgitative followers baffles me each and every day. They decide who you like and dislike. They decide exactly how you feel about an athlete. They make you believe that what your eyes are seeing and what your brain is telling you is completely and 100% false and that you will be punished if you do not conform to their beliefs.

They’re a cult in every sense of the word.

LeBron James taking and making the big shots against Indiana on Saturday night means nothing. He has done it plenty of times before and he will do it plenty of times in the future. But basically the guy cannot win. Despite him doing what everyone had asked, there are still the remaining doubters.

‘Oh well we don’t care if you do it against Indiana, do it in the playoffs’. If he does it in the playoffs it’ll be ‘do it in the second round of the playoffs’. If he does it in the second round of the playoffs it will be ‘do it in the Eastern Conference Finals’. If he does it in the Eastern Conference Finals it will be ‘do it in the Finals’. If he does it in the Finals it will be ‘do it in game 7 of the Finals’. If he does it in game 7 of the Finals it will be ‘you had Dwyane Wade’.

The crazy, unjust, unreasonable, inaccurate circus will continue as long as ESPN, Fox Sports, Yahoo Sports and the rest allow it to. LeBron James, sadly, does not control his own fate as far as public perception goes. Many believe that winning his first championship will silence everyone once and for all, but I think that is overly presumptuous.

There is too much money to be made from the nation wide saturation of everything LeBron James. There are too many newspapers to be sold, too many websites to be explored and too many television shows to be viewed for this mission against LeBron James to end. Perhaps it will return to the days when people loved him for what he was, not what people falsely accused him to be, but we are a long way off that happening.

So, in the mean time, as hard as it may be, let’s all please take a step back, close the browser displaying ESPN.com, turn off SportsCenter, walk away from your friend Skip Bayless and use that thing between your ears, above your eyes and below your ‘Quitness’ hats.

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Tags: Basketball Chris Bosh Cleveland Cavaliers Dwight Howard Dwyane Wade Hedo Turkoglu Indiana Pacers Kobe Bryant LA Lakers Lebron James Los Angeles Lakers Miami Heat Michael Jordan NBA Orlando Magic

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