“There’s nothing worse in life than wasted talent.”
Robert DeNiro to his young son, Calogero in the film, ‘A Bronx Tale’
It’s been a while since we last spoke so I figured I’d hit you up. Hopefully you had a good night’s sleep last night.
I hope your stay these past few days in Dallas has been a good one; I’ve never been to Dallas so I don’t know what one does when they visit. I do hope that you have spent some time in the gym, no make that, I hope you spent some extra time in the gym getting up some shots and lifting weights in the hotel gym.
Tonight is Game 5 of the NBA championship. The series is tied at 2 games. Everyone will be watching, “All Eyes on Me” as they like to say. It’s your last night in Dallas; the fans here, well I’m sure they are not very impressed with your performance, mainly your play in crunch time. The gang will all be in the house. Adrian Wojnarowski, Rachel Nichols, Greg Doyel, Jason Whitlock, Mike Breen, Jeff Van Gundy, Mark Jackson, Magic, JB and his brother Brent, Michael Wilbon, and Stu. Let’s not forget Jalen Rose, Tim Legler, Rick Kamla, Kevin McHale, Chris Mullin, Chris Weber, Steve Smith, Dennis Scott and Hannah Storm. They will be watching your every move and ready with their comments.
Over the years I have been a fan of the way you play the game; I defend you when people criticize you. When you have a bad game, they all come out of the woodwork to go after you. They say you lack a low post move, they say you need a cross-over dribble, one guy even said you need an inside-out move. I laughed at that one.
They are all the haters… who cares what those people have to say, you’re the best player in the NBA.
Tonight you have a chance to put all your critics to sleep, for a couple of days anyway. Actually I take that back, that’s impossible because no matter what you do tonight, they will find something you did wrong.
In the game of life we have self-help gurus that preach we shouldn’t worry about what other people think of us; who really cares, right?
But LeBron you owe it to your fans in Miami and to all your followers on Twitter around the Internet to come out tonight swinging, oops, I mean Ballin’…for a full 48 minutes!
You owe it to people like me who enjoy watching you play. You owe it to the families who spend a lot of money on your shoes and the kids who ask for a LeBron James jersey for Christmas. By the way, so much for that Q score/rating a few months ago right? They said you dropped on the popular chart. But you still have the #1 selling jersey in the league. LOL.
The minute you board the team bus at the hotel this afternoon until the final buzzer, you need to be ready to go. Your mind has to be right. What many players fail to realize is the game of basketball is more mental than physical, a lot more.
Better yet, if there are two buses departing for American Airlines Center, I challenge you to catch a cab with assistant coach Keith Askins before the first bus departs and be the first to arrive to the arena. Get dressed and head out to the court to get up some shots; take shots you will take in the game. Work on your drive to the basket. Take a few passes in the post, work on a drop step, or go middle with the shuffle dribble. This way we can hear Van Gundy mention on air during the telecast that you were the first one to the gym; Larry Bird and Ray Allen both fall into that category.
I really don’t care what the stats say the past few games, to me that doesn’t matter. I have watched you your entire NBA career, I know you can play; we all know you can play.
I witnessed game 5 of the 2007 playoffs against the Detroit Pistons when you scored 48 points. You scored 25 straight at one point late in the game; 29 of your team’s last 30! Most important, your team won in double-overtime. How soon they forget.
In May of 2010, I drove four hours to Cleveland to watch game 5 of the first round playoff series against the Boston Celtics. I was in the house along with Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, you know him well, he loves to write about you. Rachel Nichols of the Mothership was also in attendance that night, I’m sure you know her too, she seems to be ESPN’s beat reporter for you. The three of us watched you lose that game 120-88.
Fans and media say you gave up, your fans boo’d you off the court. I drove home that night saying to myself, ‘wow the Cavaliers stink’. The next game you came out and hung a triple double (27 points, 19 rebounds and 10 assists) on the Celtics despite losing the game and the series 4-2.
Basketball followers ripped you.
A couple of months later you decided to change your work address. You went from Cleveland to Miami. You let a lot of people down from your home State of Ohio. They were burning your jersey in the streets.
In the game of basketball everyone looks at how many points a player scores to determine their success; I don’t. Like some hoop purists, I look at rebounds, assists, free-throws attempted, deflections, turnovers and most of all, how much energy a guy plays with!
I look at passion, toughness and communication.
Is the player talking on defense, helping teammates, closing out on shooters.
I look for guys getting stops on defense; stopping the ball on the break, pressuring the dribbler/passer, denying their man the ball on the wing. I love to see guys draw charges, box out and dive on the floor for loose balls. I also look for players showing courage, taking and making big shots, whether it’s the beginning of the game or the closing seconds.
If you display these traits, you have played your heart out; the fans and media will adore you.
Can’t criticize that.
LeBron, you mentioned the other day, “I think it’s that time that I try to get myself going individually.”
Yeah, I’d say so too. But superstars don’t wait until game 5 of a best of seven championship series.
I heard what Scottie Pippen said about you and Michael Jordan last week, I didn’t agree with him but as always, we like to find the next Jordan. Bron, no one will ever be Jordan, it’s impossible.
Just be you, forget wanting to be the greatest player of all-time; or as Mark Jackson would say, ‘Do you’.
Anyone who has ever picked up a ball, laced up their sneakers and played the game knows two people can’t score at once. I’d like to see you crash the offensive boards when a teammate shoots. I’d like to see you cut to the basket, set a ball screen or even screen away to get a teammate open. How about going into the post and posting up on the block?
I once heard Jon Stewart describe the great Bruce Springsteen’s performance while on stage: “Bruce empty’s his tank.”
If you don’t know what that means, hit me back.
By the way before I forget, the thing that separates Jordan from everyone else, killer instinct. His willingness to do anything possible to win. Michael would rip your heart out. In case you didn’t realize this, in 6 NBA championships that MJ played in, he won them all, 6 for 6. Most impressive? He was named MVP in all 6 series’.
In closing, I found this quote from you on your performance after that unbelievable Pistons playoff game just a few years ago, “Why should I be surprised? I was making a lot of great moves. They are definitely a great defensive team, but I was determined to attack.”
LBJ, I am surprised that your play in this series has gone south. I hope you are determined to be on the attack tonight. It’s the finals, the chance that many players don’t get.
My guy Danny Wetzel, a fantastic writer typed a great article on you today at Yahoo.com, click here and you can read it for yourself. A line in the piece jumped out at me,
This is no longer about promise or potential. This is the time to stand and deliver.
Good luck Bron, we’ll all be watching.
Follow me on Twitter: @CoachFinamore