Traverse City Record-Eagle

June 14, 2011

James Cook: LeBron flames out in finals

King Flames busted down to prince

By JAMES COOK
jcook@record-eagle.com

---- — Perhaps the new moniker for LeBron James should be Prince James.

Because he sure hasn't shown that he's not yet worthy of the throne.

Instead of bringing one of those multiple NBA championships that he promised Miami Heat fans after "The Decision" made him one of the more disliked people in the United States, King James ended his season with a whimper for the second straight year.

A year after quitting on the Cleveland Cavaliers in their playoff run and then bolting via free agency to Miami, LeBron this time seemed fine with taking a back seat to Dwyane Wade. That's not what he was brought there to do.

Yes, it was Wade's team that LeBron joined. But if James had the leadership quality that would make him the legend everyone insists he is, then he wouldn't take a backseat to anyone.

He wouldn't wilt in the fourth quarter of seemingly every NBA Finals game as Dirk Nowitzki ruled the court -- despite a torn tendon in his left hand and an apparent illness bothering him all series.

He wouldn't have the gall to mock Nowitzki when down 3-2 in the series.

He's taking a lot of heat -- no pun intended -- from a lot of directions. And you can't argue with much of it.

LeBron isn't a leader. He couldn't take Cleveland to an NBA title in seven years after he was dubbed the league's next Anointed One.

And he couldn't take Miami's "Big Three" to one, either.

It's as if he just expected that if he showed up to the finals, he'd win.

That may change down the road as Miami tries to attract better role players to put around James, Wade and Chris Bosh, but Cleveland used the same tack and it didn't alter their fate.

Cleveland fans burned James jerseys when he left, then LeBron flamed out with the Heat.

At age 26, LeBron has a lot to learn. First, he needs to make better decisions if he wants to be a leader.

And "The Decision" was a horrible decision. Not that he left his home state -- that's his call, and he had every right to do it -- but how he handled it. He basically stuck a knife in the back of his home state, then twisted it for a half hour as Jim Gray stood idly by with softball questions.

And we all know his prediction of multiple titles in front of Miami Heat fans when his signing was formally announced was for show, but it made the target on his back that much bigger -- and Cleveland's disgust with him that much more intense.

Many Ohioans are rejoicing in their former hero's almost comical failure in the Finals. His stats in the fourth-quarter -- a period in which Nowitzki played some of his best ball -- are stark and a shadow of the player he can be.

There's no reason LeBron, Wade and Bosh can't deliver on James' boast, but first he's got to grow up before he can hoist up the Larry O'Brien Trophy.

Maybe then LeBron can ascend from prince to king.