LeBron James is still royalty — an emperor with no clothes
Reporting from Miami
Looks like he brought some bad karma with him to South Beach, too.
LeBron James, who had been disappearing in fourth quarters in the NBA Finals, left even earlier Sunday night, recalling the legendary falls taken by Wilt Chamberlain, the only other NBA superstar as controversial as he is.
After starting four for four in the first 4 minutes 12 seconds, James took 11 more shots Sunday night as he and the Heat slid slowly into ignominy, falling meekly to the Dallas Mavericks, 105-95, and losing the series in six games.
“Their time is not now,” Dallas Coach Rick Carlisle said.
“Our time is now. It needed to be. …
“I kept having people come up to me the last three or four days [and say] ‘Hey, there’s billions and billions of people rooting for you guys.’ … And we could feel it.
“Come on, how often do we have to hear about the LeBron James reality show and what he is or isn’t doing?
“When are people going to talk about the purity of our game and what these guys accomplished?”
Not today, except in Dallas.
Everywhere else, they’re talking about James’ reality show in which he turned into the emperor with no clothes.
James scored 21 points, but nine came in the first 4:12. He scored only five in the next 36:45, by which time the Mavericks were up by nine with 7:03 left.
The rest was increasingly garbage times as James scored his last seven.
The last all-time great who went out with such a thud was Chamberlain, who in 1968 didn’t take a shot from the floor in the second half of the 76ers’ loss to Boston in Game 7 of the Eastern Division finals in Philadelphia.
A year later as a Laker, Chamberlain asked out of another Game 7 against the Celtics after hurting his knee, tried to go in at the end but was told to sit back down by Coach Butch van Breda Kolff.
Chamberlain said he didn’t get the ball in Philadelphia, didn’t get along with van Breda Kolff in Los Angeles but went out known as much for the controversies swirling about him as his gigantic feats.
James is only 26, but within 12 months has fallen from grace image-wise and, now, basketball-wise.
Playing with a bone chip in his shooting elbow in last spring’s second-round loss to Boston, he nevertheless went out like a tiger with 27 points and 19 rebounds in the last game.
After looking like his Superman self this spring when Scottie Pippen said he was better than Michael Jordan, his attempts fell off and his jumper stopped going in the Finals as the Heat tried to establish struggling Dwyane Wade.
Sunday, however, James came out firing and making … then faded into the mists, or mystery, a victim of the anxiety that reared its head when doubts entered.
Everyone will soon be emulating the Mavericks, who showed that James is guardable if you keep him out of the lane.
NBA coaches have lived in fear of the day that James learned to post up, but it hasn’t happened yet.
Now, it’s past time.
“Any time you feel like you get to the top of the mountain and you fall off, there’s definitely a personal failure,” James said, taking it like a man.
“It was a failure in ’07 when we lost to the Spurs when I was in Cleveland.
“It’s a failure now for myself losing to the Mavericks. Absolutely.”
In the bad news for the world rooting against him, they’re still who they are and he’s still who he is, he says.
“At the end of the day, all the people that was rooting on me to fail … they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life that they had before they woke up today,” James said.
“I pretty much don’t listen to what everybody has to say about me or my game or what I’ve done with my career. … This is year after year after year for me.”
For a while, though, it’s just not going to be as much fun to be the king as it used to be.