Will LeBron Bring the Right “It” In The Clutch?

"I think I can, I think I can, I think I can..."

 

***This is a post I wrote for The Fan Hub. (Feb 27) 

 

HEAT fans, brace yourself. It happened again.

The It that’s become alarmingly synonymous with LeBron James: the inevitable late game collapse.

We were all witnesses to another signature King James performance in Sunday night’s All Star Game, and by signature I mean “amazing until something is on the line”.

For most of Sunday, James was the best player on the court (my apologies to Kevin Durant, who played surprisingly well with Reggie Miller swinging from his nuts all game). His first-half high-flying dunk-a-thon not only caused John Lucas to pee down his leg like the kid in Ransom, but also proved that unless Bron-Bron is signed up, David Stern should cancel the lame All-Star Slam Dunk Contest in the “best interests of the league”.

But even with James and Dwayne “Triple-Double” Wade lighting it up, Durant and the West still led by more than 20 in the 4th. By the time James checked in with 7 minutes left in the 4th quarter, the East was down 15. That’s when the Boy who could be King took over.

LeBron brought his squad all the way back to within a bucket in the final seconds, James passed up the game-winning chance to Deron Williams who proceeded to clang the 3-pointer. Carmello got the board, and James somehow got the ball back one last time. With Kobe loudly daring him to shoot, LeBron instead chucked a cross-court pass to his boy Wade…or more accurately, to Blake Griffin.

Game over. 36 points, 6 rebounds, 7 assists, 6/8 from 3 point land. Gorgeous stat line, depressed post-game interview.

Another late-game collapse on the national stage has to be davastating to the LeBr-ego. And if it wasn’t, Carmello and Kobe ripping on him after the game surely had to be. It might have been just an All-Star game, but afterwards LeBron admitted  this one will stick with him for a while.

"Man, we didn't even have to scream 'Delonte' or anything!"

Let’s also not ignore the damage done to LeBron’s master plan to fix his Q-rating. Even from the pre-game intros, it was obvious he was showing the world how fun and “normal” he is. His early high-flying act reminded us that he’s a once-in-a-generation Freak of nature, and we were awed. James was on pace to win himself back from the depths of national hatred like Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino, but instead he went and It‘d it.

Hopefully this latest It can fuel the fire inside the warrior that will carry him through the season, but given that LeBron isn’t exactly what most people would call “stable”, should HEAT fans be seriously worry about It?  Or should we just accept that LeBron will always be the little boy with the man’s hairline sitting alone and exasperated, with his back to the basket.

Then again, how badly could this latest It mess with his head, considering he wasn’t exactly Mr. Big shot before this? Think about it: in all his years, LeBrick has one memorable big-game buzzer beater: 2009 Game 2, Eastern Conference Finals over the Magic, when he chucked up a prayer that turned into the game-winning 3.

Other than that, just a ton of Its.

2007 Finals against San Antonio. Game 6 of 2009 Eastern Conference Finals against Orlando. 2nd Round, 2010 Playoffs against Boston. 2011 Finals against Dallas. The body language changes, the shoulders droop; LeBron physically and metaphorically shrinks from the moment. The the ball gets thrown away, or stuck in his hand as he runs out the clock for 20 seconds before forcing an ill advised 20 footer at the buzzer.

Are these Its all HEAT fans have to look forward to? LeBron is in the midst of another MVP-worthy season, but life is good when the games aren’t close. When the HEAT are on, he rules the league. When the heat is on, he’s more of a potential disaster for Mickey Arison than the Costa Concordia.

Will LeBron ever be able to outplay the demons dancing in his head when his team needs him most? Or is his greatness limited to showmanship and exhibition?

Hopefully, once he finally climbs over the peaks of Mount Chokefest, all the over-thinking is behind him. Then we’ll get 100% LeBron for a full 48 minutes, no matter if it’s November, February or June.

Unfortunately, we just never know until the moment is there…and by then It happens.