Life, economics, politics, psychology, sociology, racism and other isms, law, history, journalism/media…all through the lens of sport.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Lin vs LeBron: the burden of gifting, the challenge to greatness

A comparison of recent game-ending situations confirms what many recognize - LeBron's gift is a burden for him, and he's afraid to be great.
Here's Jeremy Lin setting himself up for the last shot in Toronto on my birthday:

Fundamentally, this was a bad play on Lin's part – and I don't mean that in a slang, cool way. What made it bad?
  •      the Knicks hadn't led since the first minutes of the 1st quarter, and they'd clawed themselves back into a tie;

  •          Amare Stoudamire was back on the Knicks active roster after being out on personal leave. With one of your star forwards on the floor, you put the ball in to him for a higher-percentage shot down low, closer to the rim and look for a foul to get to the line to score with the clock stopped; you don't hold the ball, milk the clock, and then jack up a long-range, low-percentage three pointer.

Be that as it may, it was spectacular! Why? Jeremy Lin decided, with 15 seconds left in the game, that the last shot does not belong to Stoudamire, or any one else - the game is on the line, and he's taking the last shot. Win or lose, it's on Lin. That's what people talk about. He knew that's what people came to see - you listen to the fans when Lin hit the winner and their team lost (the Knicks were not in New York, they were on the road) and you'd think the Raptors had just won the NBA Championship. People want to see greatness, to talk about seeing the spectacular.

Okay, now watch this finish to the 2012 All-Star game. Here's the situation: with less than 12 seconds left in the game, LeBron's Eastern team is losing 151-149, and he's got the ball. You know he'd seen and heard all about Lin in Toronto just a few weeks ago. So, here's his chance to not only avenge his All-Star loss last year (a game in which many think he really was the MVP although he didn't win it), but hit the winning shot in spectacular fashion, on a much bigger stage than some meaningless game in Toronto against a non-playoff contender. Take a look at what went down:

LeBron had the ball, and passed it to Williams, who jacked up a three and missed. The rebound got to Williams, who got it back to LeBron with 5 seconds left. With yet another chance to take the shot, with his opponent, Kobe guarding him and telling him "take the shot," what does LeBron do? He passes it again; but it's picked off by an opposing player, game over. And immediately when it's over, Carmelo Anthony and Kobe Bryant are right on the spot to tell LeBron what time it is - it's time to step up and aspire to your calling, bro. 

The fans wanted to see you take the last shot. Your teammates wanted to see you take the last shot. Heck, the NBA's all-time leader in All-Star game scoring, Kobe Bryant himself, as your opponent with the game to lose, wanted you to take the last shot. 

Nobody wants to talk about how unselfish a player you are, and how much you respect your teammates' abilities. You've been called to set yourself apart and take your place in the pantheon among the very greatest. But that can't happen, that won't happen, if you don't go get it. Guys like Kobe and Tiger and MJ and Barry Bonds weren't being paid to be nice guys, or to be liked. We all know they don't care what people think of them, and that's what it takes. 

No, it doesn't mean you have to be a jerk. But it does mean, you've got to decide to embrace your gifts and live up to your calling. It's time for you to stop worrying about what people think of you, stop worrying about missing the last shot. What you are missing is greatness. MJ's commercial said it - "I've failed and failed and failed...and that's is why I succeed." 

It's time for you to stop trying to be Robin looking for a Batman. It's time to realize, you're Batman - so be Batman. It's your gift, it's your curse, it's your burden to bear, and you've got the shoulders for it.

1 comment:

  1. It's my pleasure to recognize that LeBron has stepped up. After a playoff run for the ages, he lead the Heat to a resounding "technical sweep" (lost game one, then won four straight) in the Finals against a young, quick, talented Oklahoma City Thunder (who will, by all appearances, be a western contender for some time to come), LeBron took the shots, did what he had to do, and has his first championship.

    If he has "figured it out," it may the first of many. But, regardless if there are going to be any more, he's already been to the finals three times and won a championship, and he did it as the clear leader, which is what the entire basketball world was waiting to see emerge.

    And, it has.