COMMENTARY | When Canadian James Naismith invented the game of "Basket Ball" in 1891, one of his intentions was to minimize physical contact -- hence the reason passing is such a big part of the game -- with the end result to get the ball to go through the goal high above the players' heads.
Analyzing the most popular sports (football, soccer, lacrosse, rugby, hockey and baseball) at the time, Naismith, who went on to coach at the University of Kansas, reasoned that most physical contact occurred while running with the ball. So he believed the only permissible way to advance the ball was via the pass. As the game evolved, dribbling was incorporated into basketball, allowing one player to dictate the flow more individually.
In the mainstream of March, when basketball is always at its best, the world knows no limits to where this game will go. Just the same, the NBA knows how long the Miami Heat's streak will last. One thing is for sure, if the Heat are to break the Los Angeles Lakers' NBA-record 33-game streak, LeBron James is going have to be the one dictating in crunch time.
In other words, forget the Naismith notion of the pass-off, LeBron has to be the one taking the final shot.
In its most stern test during the streak that had grown to 26 on Sunday, March 24 after a blowout win over Charlotte, Miami's comeback win at Boston's TD Garden last Monday brought out the best in LeBron again. But he needed a pass-off that failed to reconsider deferring a second time. Miami trailed by as many as 17. With 45 seconds left and the score tied, James drove in the paint and dished off to a slashing Dwyane Wade, who had his shot blocked by Paul Pierce. On the Heat's next possession, James wasn't giving up the rock. He buried the game-winning jumper with 10.5 seconds left to extend Miami's streak to 23 games.
Two nights later when Miami found itself in a dogfight with his former team on the road at Cleveland, James needed to salt the game away at the free-throw line in the closing seconds. The Heat nursed a one-point lead, following a 27-point comeback, with 4.5 seconds left. Coach Erik Spoelstra elected to inbound the ball to James, whom was quickly fouled before knocking down both free throws.
Needless to say, when the game and the Heat's streak have been on the line, it's been LeBron who's delivered. For Miami to continue this run toward the record, with games at Chicago and San Antonio ahead, the MO must be: Leave it with LeBron.
The Heat will be tested in their quest to break NBA history with five games on the road during the eight-game stretch to reach the record. James has to be the one delivering the goods come crunch time. So often earlier in his career -- even earlier in his time with the Heat -- he's been criticized for passing up last-second shots in games his team would go on to lose. Now, with the franchise clearly resting on James' shoulders, it's his time to add to his legacy.
Asking any team to win 33 games in a row is insane, but couple that with the idea that relying on your leader for last-shot heroics is a responsibility only elite players with mojo can burden. Heck, even Kobe Bryant chided LeBron in the 2012 All-Star Game in Orlando for not taking the shot in crunch time when the East needed a bucket with the game on the line.
LeBron must become that player. Now is his time.
For some strange reason, you sense even Dr. Naismith would be urging LeBron not to pass.
Jim McCurdy is a freelance sports writer based in Miami. He has written for major publications around the country. Follow him on Twitter at @irishcurds.
- Sports & Recreation
- James Naismith
- Miami Heat
- LeBron James