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Lebron James Quit on His Team Yesterday
What Lebron James did yesterday was very uncharacteristic of himself. In a must-win game 6 with 3 minutes left in the game and down 13, Lebron James quit on his team, he quit on the city of LA, and he quite frankly quit on NBA fans everywhere. He had multiple zero-effort plays that essentially made it impossible for the Lakers to dig into the lead; he spent multiple defensive possessions arguing with the refs on the other side of the court, he made no effort to get back on defense or to get out to shooters, and he even walked off the court before congratulating anyone on the Suns team. Despite this poor display of effort and intensity, not many people have pointed out Lebron’s end-game performance yesterday, which is quite surprising given how the media normally operates when it comes to the King and even his slightest shortcomings. So, even though I think Lebron is the GOAT and has done as much for the game of basketball as anyone, that doesn’t mean he can’t be criticized, especially when it comes to effort and sportsmanship.
ScoutWithBrian has an excellent video on youtube where he details the final 3 minutes of game 6, highlighting numerous ways in which Lebron quits on his team, so I suggest you check out that video if you didn’t get a chance to watch that blasphemy yesterday. Not only did Lebron spend multiple defensive possessions towards the end of that game jawing with the ref as opposed to getting back on defense and setting up a trap, but he also doesn’t even put in any effort once he gets back on defense (he gives up a WIDE OPEN dagger 3 to Jae Crowder with just under 2 minutes left without even attempting to look like he’s trying to contest it or make any type of close out). It’s important to note, also, that nobody else on his team gives up; Schroder, THT, KCP, and Matthews all sprint back on defense for each of the final possessions (under 3 minutes), and there are even a few situations where they’re looking to trap but Lebron is nowhere to be found.
In addition to his lack of effort in the closing minutes, Lebron never really seemed like he was taking the game seriously from the start. He didn’t have that “look” on his face that we often see Lebron have when his back is up against the wall, and he didn’t attack the rim like he normally does in must-win games. I know that he’s battling an ankle injury, but what ruins that argument is that he showed flashes of looking like himself throughout the playoffs, and especially in the 3rd quarter of yesterday’s game. He came out in the 3rd quarter with a clear change in his attitude and mindset; he attacked the rim with ferocity and bullied people in the paint. He looked like vintage Lebron, and it allowed the Lakers to get to within 10. But as soon as the Lakers faced another Suns push in that 4th quarter, Lebron immediately regressed to the unaggressive, nonchalant player that we saw in the first half. If Lebron hadn’t shown flashes of being himself throughout this series (and in the 3rd Q last night), I wouldn’t criticize him so heavily when it comes to his lack of aggressiveness and hustle towards the end of yesterday’s game. But, he clearly had something left in his tank to give, and that’s never the way you want to end a series.
“They Were Going to Lose Anyway, Though”
Listen, I’m not here to tell you that Lebron James’ effort towards the end of that game is the reason they lost yesterday. I’m not sure what the analytics would show in terms of being down 13 with 3 minutes left, but obviously the chances of making a comeback are quite slim. BUT, there is A CHANCE, and crazier things have definitely happened in the NBA, so that’s not a remotely acceptable excuse as to why Lebron gave up. Additionally, EVEN IF there was no feasible chance that the Lakers could have made up that deficit yesterday (which wasn’t the case), that doesn’t justify Lebron giving up; perhaps it’s more about the symbolism of it than it is about the actual game itself, but Lebron’s lack of effort towards the end of that game is definitely not something that he should be proud of.
Regardless of the effort he put in or the score of the game, though, every player should shake hands with the other team at the conclusion of the series. He had just battled with his good friend CP3 and an up-and-coming star in Booker who probably used to look up to Lebron, and James rushed off the court before congratulating them on an awesome series. Again, this is very uncharacteristic of Lebron, and it was unfortunate to see so late in his career, after he had theoretically matured past moments like these.
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