June 09, 2011
Since LeBron James's(notes) poor performance in Game 4, we've heard all sorts of reasons for why and how he had one of the worst games of his postseason career. He's dominated the conversation of this series at the expense of several other major storylines, including Dirk Nowitzki's(notes) playing well through injury and illness and the stellar performance of Dwyane Wade(notes) (with some high-profile miscues, as well). But LeBron is a media superstar, and he has driven the conversation about basketball for at least two seasons. He was always bound to drive the narrative of the Finals, because he drives the narrative of anything.
To his credit, James is beginning to realize his unique role in this series. So instead of trying to treat Game 5 like any other game, he's going with the storyline and pushing its importance for his overall legacy. From Sekou Smith on NBA.com (via PBT):
James sent out a late-night tweet — "Now or Never!!" — the day before that should have served notice of the way he spent the time between his humbling Game 4 performance and the hours leading up to tonight's game. [Note: That tweet is also in today's Days of NBA Lives post.]
"It was a personal message to myself," James said after the Heat's shootaround practice. "That's just how I was feeling at that time, honestly. It was just a personal message to myself and had nothing to do with anyone else besides myself. I was just in a zone at that point … this is a big game, probably the biggest game of my life, well, not probably, it is. And I'm approaching it that way."
In the wake of accusations of shrinking from the spotlight in Games 3 and 4, LeBron made the right move by touting tonight's game as a major event. People will ultimately care most about the result on the court, but it also would have done him no good to undersell this contest. Fans expect James to rise to the occasion any chance he gets, and anything short of treating Game 5 like an extinction level of event may have convinced some fans that he doesn't care enough to be a true champion.
Again, his performance in this game matters more than what he says before it. Still, LeBron will never win over his detractors if he doesn't act like the basketball god they expect him to be. Comments like these place him in that category. In a few hours, we'll find out if he can dominate like everyone wants him to.