Did you think LeBron James would go unscathed with little to no drama during this year’s playoff run? If you did, you’re not the only one. Given Cleveland’s 10-0 start to the postseason, it appeared that James and the Cavs were going to dance through opponents until the real fun began in June against the Golden State Warriors.
Well, that was the case up until Sunday night. In a surprise turn of events, James played one of the worst games of his playoff career as he tallied 11 points, six rebounds, and six assists.
That fast, pundits had selective amnesia about the 10 games prior to Sunday night’s snooze fest.
As Jay-Z stated, It was all good just a week ago, in fact, it was all good just a few days ago. To some, LBJ was entering a terrain inching closer to the “ghost” he’s chasing to be best basketball player of all-time.
After arguably the worst game of his postseason career, James’ path to basketball immortality came to a screeching halt.
Like many athletes, it’s common that even the greatest players to play will deliver an unforgettable performance. Whether talking about Peyton Manning, Kobe Bryant, or Serena Williams, all-time greats are prone to give fans a rare clunker. Since it’s not the norm, it causes an overreaction that perpetuates imprudent views.
Most of these performances are just a small blip when comparing them to their legendary careers.
His lackluster performance aided an unlikely Celtics victory in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Sure enough whispers of refuting his greatness circled back to the forefront.
Like no other athlete seen before, James is such under an intense microscope. It feels as if games like Sunday happen customarily. In fact, they rarely occur. While it’s not on the level of Michael Jordan as he never had one playoff game with fewer than 15 points, in 210 playoff games, James has only had 15 points or less six times. I’m not a math expert, but numbers show that performances like Sunday are infrequent.
As the hottest of hot takes continue to roll, it’s imperative that we focus on how James responds. He’s been down this road before, and it usually plays out in his favor. Let’s take a quick trip down memory lane as a refresher.
Remember the time when he put up a similar stat line to Sunday night in Game 3 of the NBA Finals in 2013? Well, he responded by dropping 33 points, 11 rebounds and four assists in route to his second ring.
How about during Game 5 of the 2014 ECF when Lance Stephenson became meme-worthy after blowing into James’ ear as the King had an Eric Snow-like stat line of seven points, two rebounds and four assists?
We remember the meme’s and the utter disrespect towards James, but he bounced back like round ball.
In the closing game of the series, he responded with 25 points, four rebounds and six assists sending home the Pacers for their routine off-season vacation fishing trip.
The stakes aren’t high enough for him to emulate legendary playoff outings where he graduated from phenom to a grown man or when he took his throne against the then Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett-led Celtics, but he has to deliver.
Game 3 of the ECF was forgettable for James and Cavs, but the narrative can change by getting back on the right track.
Tonight, James is set up for a major comeback that comes from his minor setback. We’ve seen this movie play out before, and that said, we will be in for a show during Game 4.
Columbus, Ohio born. Ron is a first-ballot healthy hairline hall of famer. He spent the summer of ‘08 eating calamari pasta because of OJ Da Juiceman. He also loves to write about sports while listening to Sada Baby. Follow him on Twitter @Ron_Hamp