We were all rolling after game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals when an unseen kid serenaded the dejected and defeated Miami Heat team with praises of “Good job! Good effort!” as they retreated to their locker room.
I chuckled at the new @goodjobkid tweets that rejoiced any signs of hustle and effort, with my favorites being:
Watching a replay of that Paul Pierce 3-pointer... LeBron ALMOST got a hand in his face. Good effort, good job! @kingjames
What’s up with Wade’s rimless glasses? The eyeglass maker totally forgot to finish.. aw well, it’s okay! Good effort!
LeBron should have promised 8 hustle trophies. The Heat are definitely getting one this year! #goodeffortgoodjob
It seemed ridiculous to commend grown men for doing a good job and giving forth a good effort after a humiliating home loss to a team that was heavily outmatched in talent. People flooded the internet with comments like “this is what happens when every kid gets a trophy” or “this kid has a shrine of his participation awards in his bedroom.” Personally, I think the kid was being sincere and cheering on his team through thick and thin, but the irony in the situation is the sneaking suspicion that LeBron James feels the same way.
Following the game, reporters caught up to James in the locker room, and one of them asked, “LeBron, you talked about coming into this game with a sense of urgency; do you feel like you did that today?”
“I think we played good enough to give ourselves a chance to win; that’s all you can ask for.”Wait, what? “Good enough”? In a pivotal game 5 on your home court with the series tied, where history has shown that the winner typically goes on to win the series, in a series where your team is the heavy favorite, in a league where you are regarded as the best player on the planet, you give up the game-icing three and walk away telling yourself that it’s all okay because you gave yourself a chance to win the game, and that’s all you can ask for? Really?
I wrote a piece last week on my NBA Hate List and had LeBron atop the heap at number one. I mentioned The Decision and his unearned sense of entitlement, but when I really think about it, I hate him because he doesn’t fit the mold of being the greatest basketball player in the world. LeBron isn’t cut from the same cloth as a Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant, and he never will be. Kobe’s work ethic and killer instinct is second to none since #23. Jordan was the best closer this game has ever seen, and perhaps the most worthy lasting image in my mind was not his championship-winning jumper over Bryon Russell but what happened on the defensive end immediately before that play -- Michael stole the ball from Karl Malone to set up his game-winner.
LeBron? After quitting on Cleveland in the 2010 playoffs against Boston, he took his talents to South Beach with two of his best friends and performed a hype job that any aspiring frontrunner would be proud to repeat:
Then, instead of rising to the occasion in last year’s finals, he shrunk from the spotlight, averaging 17.6 points (including only 8 points in game 4), which was good for third on his team. On the game’s biggest stage, where NBA greats should shine brightest, LeBron checked out with stage fright and had the audacity to call out the Miami Heat haters after losing the series.
“All the people that were rooting on me to fail, at the end of the day they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life that they had before they woke up today. They have the same personal problems they had today. I’m going to continue to live the way I want to live and continue to do the things that I want to do with me and my family and be happy with that. So they can get a few days or a few months or whatever the case may be on being happy about not only myself, but the Miami Heat not accomplishing their goal. But they got to get back to the real world at some point.”LeBron and the rest of his teammates overlooked the Dallas Mavericks last year and played like a team that expected the championship to be placed at their feet. And when that didn’t happen, instead of looking for ways to improve and come back stronger, LeBron was indignant and took the time to address NBA fans who had grown to despise everything that he represented, especially after he himself had said before ever playing a single minute with Miami:
“The way we’re going to challenge each other to get better in practice, once the game starts, I mean, it’s going to be easy. I mean, with me and D-wade running the wing, I mean, Pat [Riley] could come back and play like he was back in his Kentucky days.”Simply put, LeBron is a man who wants the praise without the criticism and the results without the responsibility. He doesn’t understand that the label of being the best player on the planet also comes with the onus of being able to live up to those expectations and not accepting failure as an option. Michael Jordan was great not only because of his physical talent but because of his hard work and mental game as well. He knew he was better than you, and he played not just to beat you, but to dominate you so that you knew it as well. With Jordan, it wasn’t about being content with a loss if he knew that he had given a good effort.
One of my friends linked me to a Rick Reilly’s article, LeBron being LeBron. I have long since stopped reading or respecting the opinion of Mr. Reilly, but allow me to quote a few lines:
“But I think the reason you hate LeBron James the most is that he just doesn’t seem to suffer his failures as much as you’d like him to. You want him to brood like Kobe after losses, glare like Jordan when things don’t go his way, scream at teammates like Tom Brady when they’re behind.
That’s not James. His spirit is too light. He’s too much fun. He’s a 6-foot-8 pixie, a 27-year-old kid who’d addicted to kidding. He’s a genuinely sweet person. You think of the great athletes of our generation -- Jordan, Woods, Lance Armstrong. They all had a bit of the jerk gene in them. James is missing it. He is loved by his teammates, not feared. So sue.
That’s probably going to work against him in the long run. It will keep him from being Jordan or Kobe or Kareem. It will keep him from being enough.
But isn’t that somebody you want your kids to have as their hero?”If it was anybody else but Rick Reilly who had written that last line, I would have assumed that it was a sarcastic, rhetorical question. But not with Rick.
So would you want your kids to have LeBron James as their hero? As a basketball fan, I appreciate his game 6 performance (45 points, 15 rebounds, 5 assists on 19-26 shooting) and rank it up there as one of the most sensational playoff games ever. But it didn’t shock me because I expect that from him, and instead, it only leaves me wondering why he can’t do that every night? Not the stats, but just absolutely taking control of the game and leaving the enemy helpless. What happened last year? Honestly, with his stature, strength, and athleticism, there truly should not be a person on this planet that can stop him, but perhaps his biggest flaw is not his inability to finish close games but his ability to settle for “good enough.”
You can’t be the greatest if you're okay with “good enough,” but maybe that isn’t on LeBron’s agenda. With that backdrop, it makes more sense to read his comments leading up to the 2012 NBA Finals against the Thunder:
“Whatever the results, I’m going to be satisfied with that. I’m going to be happy with it because I know I’m going to give it my all.”Good job, good effort.