With just 6.1 seconds left in the 2012 NBA All-Star Game Monday morning, Lebron James, guarded by Kobe Bryant, received the ball on top of the keyhole with the chance to send the game into overtime or win it for the East team.
Instead, he took a few dribble and threw a bullet pass to Miami Heat team mate Dwayne Wade which was promptly intercepted by Blake Griffin. Wade can only foul Griffin in frustration with 1.1 seconds left.
James, whose repeated failure to take the last shot to win or lose games for his team, again demonstrated how, despite his skills and size, he still pales in comparison with the game’s best active player in Kobe Bryant, also one of the best clutch shooters of all time.
When he broke into the premier basketball league in 2003, many saw Jmaes as a reincarnate of Ervin ‘Magic’ Johnson for his basketball intelligence and a likely successor to Michael Jordan as the most dominant player in the game even as Bryant had already collected his third NBA title.
Nine years after his pro debut and two years after he left his first team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, to form the most potent modern troika in pro ball, James has yet to win a title after two failed trips in the NBA finals. James is undoubtedly the best all-around player in the game with still a high ceiling for improvement and has the potential to win more NBA titles than any active player in the league, Bryant included. But it comes with a big if.
If only he can muster his dominant plays at critical endgames and be the most powerful finisher of the game, then he can live up to his lofty billing.
But James has often been criticized for his on-game decisions during tight and critical situations, especially during end games when he oftentimes looks to pass rather than takes the shot himself.
It was again evident when the 6’9” opted to pass the ball over Bryant during the closing seconds of the 2012 instead of driving the ball himself to the rim or jumping over his shorter guard.
In contrast, Bryant took the ball hard to the rim a play earlier when his team was protecting a one-point lead. He did not make it to the basket but drew a foul from his defender awarding him two free throws. Bryant missed one but made the other giving the West team a two-point lead heading into that closing six seconds.
This is where James is separated from Bryant and where the former will fail to become the best basketball player of all times.
Both Bryant and his predecessor, Michael Jordan, were described as ball hogs and selfish early in their careers. But they were no doubt motivated by their will to win and that is all that count to be an unqualified success in the NBA.
Besides, Bryant earned his first NBA title on his fifth year in the league, two of them without the most dominant center in the game, the retired Shaquille O’Neal.