Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Where is "IT"?

LeBron James has a lot of things: out-of-this-world talent, a physique worthy of a heavyweight champion, class, manners and marketing appeal. But something's missing. After bouncing the Wizards in his first ever playoff series, then giving the two-time Eastern Conference champion Detroit Pistons all they could handle before being eliminated in 7 games, we were all supposed to be "Witnesses" this season. With LeBron (and the other young Cavaliers) having gained a year of postseason experience, a healthy Larry Hughes and a decidedly mediocre Eastern Conference, 2006-07 was supposed to be the year LeBron made serious run at the NBA Finals.

But the Cavs have been nothing special. At all! The Eastern Conference has obliged, reaching all new levels of mediocrity, and Hughes has been healthy, however he hasn't been particularly productive or consistent. Before this season, accounts of the LeBron James dynasty were already being written- prematurely, as it turns out. What happened? LeBron James, the man-child with more talent than anyone who's ever entered the league, doesn't have a SUPERstar mentality.

This is NOT, I repeat NOT, an anti-LeBron rant. It is however, an examination of the single trait that is keeping LeBron from being the best we've ever seen. The fact is that LeBron James doesn't seem to recognize when the Cavaliers need him, for better or worse, to take the ball and dominate a game. What LeBron needs is what Jerry West, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson had. And, in today's NBA, what Kobe, Dwayne Wade, Gilbert Arenas, Steve Nash and Mike Bibby (yeah, he's got it!) have. It's not selfishness, and it's not about physical ability. It's the recognition of the moment when a team needs something extra; it's recognizing when your team needs you to go from superstar to superhero.

LeBron has it in him, we've seen it, albeit in small bursts. It seems as though he's more concerned with not being thought of as selfish than he about doing WHATEVER NEEDS TO BE DONE to win games. There will come a moment (he's to phenominally good for it not to come!) when it will dawn on him that passing the ball to Drew Gooden and Larry Hughes is NOT the best option for the Cavs.

It's ironic that a man with nicknames such as "the Chosen One" and "King James" chooses to defer to Damon Jones and Anderson Varjao! In his own mind, LeBron needs to make it OK to dominate the ball in order to win games.

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