Just when the King appears superhuman, he begins to commit the most glaring of faux pas. Six for seven from beyond the arc and while warding off the mythical Mamba himself. What beast shoots a step back 3-pointer from beyond 25-feet only to watch it splash down like a space capsule plummeting back to Earth after entering the Earth’s atmosphere? Lebron James does…but not in the closing seconds of a game.
The NBA All-Star game has a reputation for evolving before the very eyes of anxious enthusiasts. What begins as a glorified pick-up game featuring dainty defense metamorphoses to a bragging rights oriented slug fest in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter. And on February 26, 2012, Lebron James, also known as King James or the Chosen One or arguably the game’s greatest monster, rallied his forlorn Eastern Conference troops from 20-points down to close within one point of the West. James put on a masterful artistry of dominance and finesse. He sat at 36 points rivaling the West’s Kevin Durant when he found himself in the all-to-familiar position of human dagger. The funny thing was, he didn’t need to win the game; he just needed to shoot the ball.
Bron Bron the phenom earned the right to shoot the last shot by destroying everything in his pathway during the comeback effort. He’s the train out of control, with no brakes, blaring the air horn for the benefit of those anywhere near the tracks. But when the out-of-bounds play was drawn up for him, the ball ended up in the hands of Deron Williams who was willing to shoot but ill equipped for the impromptu role of hero. Why, that was King James’ job. But not to worry, fans thought, for the king wound up with an offensive rebound and plenty of tick for a 1-on-1 exhibition vs. his mentor Kobe “Bean” Bryant. Ah but once again, as if spellbound, his highness deferred to his teammate attempting a 20-foot pass through defensive traffic to Dwyane Wade which was ill fated. And alas, a rally in futility quickly became the fodder of today’s talk radio and lunch-time water cooler discussions. At 6’9” and 260 pounds, Lebron James’ freaksih athleticism is rivaled only by the inexplicable tendency of his to remove his size 16 shoe from the gas pedal. It’s hard to simply say that Lebron can’t finish games or that he doesn’t want to win. But maybe he lacks the heart of Simba who couldn’t wait to be King. Lebron James was actually being beckoned by his own friends on both sides of the contest yesterday, “Shoot the (expletive) ball.”
There’s a time to perform and a time to move beyond performance to risk. However, risk has that onomatopoeidic ring to it which connotes snatching victory from the proverbial jaws of derision or possibly becoming the object of ridicule. Most of us aren’t wired to gamble. Fortunately though, especially when you’re as gifted as Lebron, it ain’t even about what people say. It’s about me, you and the king learning how to risk failure because winning is as much a pursuit as it is a luxury. In the words of the now defunct MVP Kobe Muppet, “You got to be hungry Lebron….I’m talkin’ ‘bout STOMACH GROWLIN’.”