Friday, June 10, 2011

Born Clutch: Not All Stars Created Equal

Let’s be clear, this year’s NBA Finals have definitely lived up to the hype. With larger than life personalities on both sides, we’re privy to great story lines and excellent drama. It is amazing how much attention Lebron has garnered throughout the season and especially in this Finals series. If anything, James has become a punching bag for the media when the Heat fail while the rest of the squad gets a pass. Is it fair for us to continue to criticize Lebron for his inability to come through when his team needs him the most? Are not all people created differently? Lebron is blessed with amazing athleticism, lightning-fast reaction time, and gazelle-like speed, but he seems to be missing a very key ingredient. Call it what you want, mental toughness, intestinal fortitude, ice in his veins, balls of steel. LeBron doesn’t have it and we’ll continue to point that out and find joy in his inability to come through when the game is on the line.

We should be keen to remember that this is the same man who didn’t shake hands after being defeated by the Orlando Magic, who basically looked like he wanted to remove his Cavs jersey before the Boston Celtics eliminated his team. Not all superstars can be like Michael Jordan or even Reggie Miller. Pressure focused them, criticism drove them, and heckling brought them to a different level. Lebron came to Miami for the ride, so when he was ready to into his disappearing act, his co-pilots Bosh and Wade could keep the show going. The problem with that is Lebron will always demand top dollar and the way the team is structure, they need 25-30 points from Lebron every night to win. So this is my challenge to Lebron: prove me wrong, your back is against the wall and the pressure is mounting, show up and I’ll shut up. This is the perfect opportunity for you to overcome all your past demons and all the haters out there. In the same why I rooted against Jordan throughout the late 90s, a part of me still secretly wants to see greatness. So Lebron, I am waiting and I want to be a Witness.

Last night, we did see one player that has shown his ability to come through during the biggest moments of his life. I am not talking about Dirk or even Jason Terry. I have to say that Mario Chalmers is the most clutch player in this year’s Finals. I don’t like Super Mario, I find him annoying like a little dog that keeps barking at the larger dogs that could easily use him as a chew toy. Yet Chalmers has made a living out of hitting big shots. Last night was no different as Mario put fear in the minds and hearts of all Dallas fans. There was a point last night when Lebron took an open three and miss and my friend turned to me and said “good thing that wasn’t Chalmers taking that shot.” Mario’s buzzer beater was ridiculous, but now we almost assume shots like that will fall from him just like it did in the National Championship game against D Rose and the Memphis Tigers in 2008. Chalmers feeds off the pressure like past greats, but he was not gifted with the same talent as Lebron, We need to recognize “being clutch” as a characteristic you’re born with. Mario should be included with past playoff greats like Robert Horry and Derek Fisher who play above their heads when the stage is the brightest.

This brings me to my last point, J.J. Barea has made Rick Carlisle look like a genius after being inserted into the starting five. After watching Barea make clutch plays among the trees of the NBA, it’s only fitting to now refer to J.J. Barea as “Always Overachieving”, especially how he got Miss Universe to go steady with him. J.J. might just force Miami to start Mario Chalmers,so Bibby will stop having nightmares about being abused by the shortest man on the court. Persistence goes a long way and J.J. Barea is living proof of that.


We've been seeing all these "clutch" statistics lately and there is one glaring omission. There is a major difference between someone who has to create their own shots to score (e.g. Lebron, Kobe, Dirk, Jordan) while facing double teams and tough angles. Then there are those who get wide open shots because of others (e.g. Chalmers, Horry, Fisher, Kerr).

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