As we all know, LeBron James didn’t do much in the any of the fourth quarters of this year’s Finals. Either he couldn’t shoot or he wouldn’t shoot. He rarely attacked the rim, shooting just three combined free throws in the final period of the six games. In Game 6, he even started to not play defense, as Sports Illustrated’s Zach Lowe pointed out. We know this because we watched the games.
But we’re not the only ones who know this. LeBron James knows it, and he talked about it in his postgame press conference, via ASAP Sports Transcripts:
Q. LeBron, given your performances late in games in these Finals, what’s your assessment of your ability to play well under pressure?
LeBRON JAMES: I mean, sometimes you got it, sometimes you don’t. And that was this case in this series. I was able to do things in the last two series to help us win ballgames. Wasn’t able to do that in this series. Once you get to the playoffs, every game is pressure. You want to win. You have to win. And I mean, we’ve seen some of that in the Chicago series, we seen some of that in the Boston series. Even though we lost Game 4, we lost Game 4 in Philly, there’s pressure in that series as well.
Q. LeBron, what in this Finals round were you personally unable to do that you wanted to do?
LeBRON JAMES: Live in the paint. They did a great job of every time I drove, they brought another extra defender in front of me. They did a great job defensively. Very underrated defensive team. Took me out of a lot of things that I’m capable of doing or used to doing. It took us out of a lot of things we’re capable of doing, that’s getting points to the paint and getting to the free-throw line. So they did a good job. Much respect to them.
For all the stick LeBron gets for the silly things he says, we have to give him some dap when he makes sense. LeBron didn’t have it — and if that’s because you think he didn’t want it, then that is up for you to decide — and he knows he didn’t play well. He admits that he couldn’t do the things he wanted to do (get in the paint, get to the line) and because of that, he couldn’t help the Heat win. That’s a very honest self-assessment. Big ups, man.
He wasn’t done.
Q. LeBron, we know it’s a team game and a team loss, but we know the player you are. We’ve seen the things you’ve done. We know the aspirations you have. Do you take this as a personal failing?
LeBRON JAMES: Any time you feel like you get to the top of the mountain and you fall off, there’s definitely a personal failure. It was a failure in ’07 when we lost to the Spurs when I was in Cleveland, it’s a failure now for myself losing to the Mavericks. Absolutely.
Also honest, also correct. LeBron knows that, even though basketball is a team game, a lot of this is on him. He’s widely regarded as the best player in the world, but if the best player in the world can’t outplay Mario Chalmers, then something is wrong. I’m not one to speculate on why LeBron was so bad, but his realizing that he didn’t perform — and that his lack of performance was a big reason why the Heat lost — is a good thing.
Maybe he needs a big-time failure on a huge stage to understand what it takes to win a championship. There’s a long lineage of NBA players who have gone through similar struggles, so he wouldn’t be the first to have to learn that lesson the hard way. He just needs to make sure he does learn it. Otherwise, we might be hearing this kind of stuff for a while.