By Josh Baumgard
According to Websters, “clutch” can be defined as “made or done in a critical situation.”
The average sports fan applies the usage of the word to a winning shot buried at the buzzer. A walk off home run.
But with LeBron James spuming his athletic prowess upon the sports world, it’s time to broaden our myopic definition for the most advanced specimen of his generation.
Rewind to last night in Miami.
The Heat were down one with under thirty seconds to play against the carcass of the San Antonio Spurs. LeBron’s mission was clear. Get into the paint and goodness usually unfolds.
LeBron attacked the lane, getting within five feet of the rim. He fumbled the ball while vacuuming in four Spurs defenders before delivering the rock to one of the purest shooters in basketball history in Ray Allen. The net ripped, the Heat led for good, and another throat slash in the final minute surgically performed by LeBron and his Heat.
Twitter erupted — mostly regarding Ray Allen’s shooting in the “clutch” this year. He’s a perfect 4-for-4 in the final two minutes to tie or take the lead. The talking heads roared. The fans cheered their once rival turned hero.
Not much was spoken about how that shot came into fruition.
Allen’s clean jumper doesn’t happen without LeBron’s dominate ability to create – both for himself and his teammates. It doesn’t happen with LeBron trying to win it himself with a contested three at the top of the key.
It happens by LeBron dismissing the Skip Baylesses of the world and doing what he does best, orchestrate the basketball court.
Not to diminish the sniper-like Allen, but the more impressive feat was and has always been LeBron’s ability to make the highest percentage basketball play on a consistent basis. Whether that means taking the final shot or moving the ball to a teammate, LeBron is forever clutch because he values team success before anything else.
“They were so heavily loaded up on LeBron, they almost got us,” said Allen. “He made a great play.”
Now if Allen misses that jumper and the Spurs go on to win, the national media will vulture into him as to why he passed the ball in the clutch. Why he wouldn’t want to take the shot.
But isn’t being clutch converting high pressure moments into success? Does it matter who pulls the trigger as long as the outcome is a win?
It was another routine night for James. 23 points, seven assists, and nine boards on 9-for-16 shooting, he quietly cranks out near triple doubles on a game-to-game basis. Ever since the Heat’s Dream Team was pooted out of Pat Riley’s basketball womb in the summer of 2010, LeBron has continued to revamp his game into the basketball beast he is today.
Take a peek at LeBron’s efficiency down the stretch of close games (Per Heat.com’s Couper Moorehead): 40 minutes, 33 points, 12 rebounds, 12 assists, and +48 plus/minus. He’s sticking it to defenses in the big moment. It’s like battering a defenseless piñata with a bat one day and a steel pipe the next.
It doesn’t matter if LeBron’s mother wants him shooting more at the end of games. The man doesn’t care. He just wants to put his team in the best possible position for victory.
Whether that means scoring, dishing, or defending, LeBron James gets it.
“I try to draw a lot of attention off of him and off the rest of the guys,” James said after snapping the shorthanded Spurs into pieces. “Its almost like pick your poison.”