By Jason Keidel
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The Miami Heat lost a close game yesterday. It is a redundant statement, of course, since the Heat always lose close games, and are now 1-of-18 when shooting for the tie or win with ten seconds or less left in the game. LeBron James takes the bulk of those shots.
LeBron has transcendent talent, perhaps top-five all-time talent. But he isn’t imbued with that carnivorous countenance, the mean gene that demands the game ball when all is on the line. He’s not a killer. Carmelo Anthony, hardly Gary Payton on defense, owned LeBron in the fourth quarter last week.
For the past few years I’ve argued that LeBron is the best player on the planet, and that his infinite skill set makes him invaluable.
I was wrong. Kobe Bryant is the best player on Earth, and has been ever since Shaquille O’Neal wasn’t. Kobe is smug, selfish, and simply unlikable. But he has that Jordan gene, the winning-is-oxygen apparatus that can’t be taught. Five titles don’t lie.
LeBron will probably win a title or two on autopilot, because there are no juggernauts anymore, or at least there won’t be once Phil Jackson retires.
“Inside our locker room, we stick together, we’re like brothers. We win together, we lose together,” said a solemn Dwyane Wade after yesterday’s game. If only he stopped there. “Outside, the Miami Heat are exactly what everyone wanted, losing games. The world is better now since the Heat is losing.”
That is disappointing, Dwyane. The us-against-the-world mantra is exhausted and exhausting, though maybe it has some value as a motivational mantra inside the locker room. But Wade’s whining is beneath him. Wade is a tough man and a great player, and he should know that the world doesn’t feel sorry for overpaid, underwhelming jocks who don’t meet their potential and blame everyone but themselves for it.
Then the Heat’s head coach, Erik Spoelstra, said his players were crying in the locker room. You can decide if this emasculates the team, gelds a group of alpha males who strutted like champions before they played their first game together. It doesn’t really matter. The scoreboard has all the answers, and the Heat is falling woefully short these days.
The Boston Celtics set a dangerous precedent when they imported Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett, winning a championship as a result. All leagues are copycats, and now the nouveaux logic is that you can cobble together a few stars and build a dynastic universe. History suggests the opposite is true, that you win through prudent drafts and a few free agent acquisitions. The Heat may learn that the hard way.
When Jim Gray sat on LeBron’s lap on that summer day, and Mr. James declared he was taking his narcissism to South Beach, it was not the beginning of an era. It was the end of an epoch. The televised, orchestrated group hug where everything short of bathroom visits had a sponsor, cemented the NBA’s place as an also-ran sport, shrinking in the shadow of the NFL and MLB, where teamwork still matters.
The NBA – where bankruptcy happens!
The NBA lost close to $400 million last season, and about 75 percent of NBA teams lost money. When David Stern talked contraction last year, he wasn’t joking. Like it or not, when Michael Jordan left he took a big chunk of the game’s soul with him The world has waited for a replacement, only to find there isn’t one, particularly in the South Florida sand.
After the loss to the Bulls, LeBron promised his team that he would stop failing in the final moments. But he’s a front-runner, unstoppable for three quarters in a game that has four. Just like his new team, LeBron was branded “King” James before he ever wore a crown.
Feel free to email me: Jakster1@mac.com
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