The King’s Speech on LeTime is Now

by Jeff Horowitz, NBA Wunderkind

LeBron can't hide from history

“Not 5, Not 6, Not 7…….”

That was LeBron James’ response to HEAT broadcaster Eric Reid during the YES. WE. DID. pep-rally after Miami won the LeBron Sweepstakes last July. LeBron was proclaiming the number of NBA titles he would bring to Miami, but after Tuesday’s Game 4 ‘LeMeltdown’, he might as well have been referring to the number of points he’ll score in a Finals game.

We all know how LeBron James “took his talents to South Beach” last summer. He desperately needs to bring those talents with him to Dallas for tonight’s crucial Game 5 of the NBA Finals, in what will be the defining game of his entire NBA career. Until Game 6 or 7, of course.

48 hours ago, for the very first time in his life, LeBron was held to single digits in a Playoff game. He scored 8 measly points IN THE NBA FINALS! Forget ‘KING’ James… this performance wasn’t even befitting of Tayshaun Prince. ˜The Chosen One” ?? More like ˜The Choking One”. He scored only 8 points and his team lost by 3, which means even a mediocre offensive game would have turned the tide in Miami’s favor.

Who exactly is LeBron James? Is he the beast that single-handedly ripped apart league MVP Derrick Rose and the Bulls 2 weeks ago in the Eastern Conference Finals, or the guy who had a Richie Tenenbaum meltdown during his final game in a Cleveland Cavs uniform last season? Is LeBron the super-star who made big shot after big shot in Miami to knock out the Celtics last month, or is he the guy that listlessly stood in the corner during Game 4 of the NBA Finals, like he’d been injected with Novocain?

"Hey, is this Jeff? I'm calling about the Floor Seats I saw on Craigslist..."

Is there something going on with LeBron that we should all know about? Did he catch Jamaal slipping Gloria James his Magloire?

What’s the problem here? Yes, LeBron James is playing unaggressive, unconfident basketball right now. Yes, LeBron’s scoring average in these Finals through 4 games (17 ppg) is the lowest of his entire career. Yes, LeBron’s hairline is receding at such a rate, he’ll be completely bald by the age of 29. Just ten days ago, Scottie Pippen was calling LeBron a “better player” than Michael Jordan, now people are saying he’s not even as good as Michael Finley.

Why is LeBron expected to be perfect?

When Dallas stifled Shaquille O’Neal in a Game 2 loss during the Heat-Mavs NBA Finals of 2006, allowing him only 5 points, 6 rebounds, and 0 blocks, the national media didn’t skewer him. I don’t remember the media ripping Shaq when he broke the rules and refused all post-game interviews that night. I don’t remember hearing newspaper reporters calling him washed-up.

Ray Allen shot 3-14 in Game 7 of last year’s NBA Finals, costing the Celtics the championship. Did anybody call him a “loser”? Nope.

How about everyone just give LeBron a break. He had ONE BAD GAME.

"Fall 7 times, get up 8! I know it don't make sense, just go with it."

Listen – I’m a huge LeBron fan, and an even bigger Miami HEAT fan, so I’m going to examine the positives about his performance, rather than rip him with the rest of the national media. Bottom Line: LeBron James is still the most athletic, physically gifted, intelligent basketball player on the planet.

Did LeBron “check-out” of Game 4 the other night, or are we just focusing too much on his lack of scoring?

Do you know who lead the Heat in rebounding the other night? LeBron.

The HEAT’s leader in assists for Game 4? LeBron.

Who leads the HEAT in minutes played? LeBron.

I will concede that it’s “inexcusable” as LeBron put it, for a player of his caliber to only score 8 points in The Finals, but let’s take it easy with the “disinterested” label. He was mixing it up pulling down 9 rebounds, and assisting on 8 of his teammates’ baskets. He’s playing 45 out of 48 possible minutes every other night, more than ANY player in the Finals. That hardly sounds like a lack of interest to me. Besides, with D Wade going off like it’s 2006 again, LeBron has little choice but to stand around and watch.

Can LeBron be more involved in the offense? Absolutely, and I’m confident he finds a way to do so tonight.

Notice it doesn't say "Finals" anywhere on this shirt

After yesterday’s shoot-around, when asked about his diminishing chances of winning the NBA Finals MVP award, LeBron answered, “I already have two MVP trophies sitting in my living room. All I want now is a ring.”

Sounds like a winner to me.

Tonight, Game 5 of the 2011 NBA Finals, will forever define the basketball career of LeBron James.

Which LeBron will we see? The emotionally fragile version that wilts under pressure, or the “Chosen One” to bring the Miami HEAT one game closer to NBA Nirvana? I’m betting on the latter.

“Not 5. Not 6. Not 7.”

If the REAL LeBron James shows up tonight, we can start talking about Ring Number 1.

We are all Witnesses...but will it be Greatness or Goatness?