Magic Johnson says LeBron James no guts as game decision maker. Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer Magic Johnson agrees with the developing notion about LeBron James who lost confidence at the end of the game. “You can see it. Yes, he’s lost a bit of his confidence.”
Magic Johnson: LeBron James has ‘lost his confidence’ in crunch time
It’s one thing for the drunk at the end of the bar to call out LeBron James for choking in the clutch. It’s another when an NBA legend and 5-time champion does it.
Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer Magic Johnson minced no words in a recent critique of James, agreeing with the developing notion that the Miami Heat All-Star forward shies from the moment in crunch time.
“For LeBron, he’s lost his confidence at the end of the games,” the Los Angeles Lakers legend said during a Grantland.com podcast interview. “You can see it. Yes, he’s lost a bit of his confidence. What he has to do now is say, ‘OK, let me get the confidence back. Let me pull up.’ Don’t care if you make it or miss it, just get used to doing it.”
Johnson made it clear that he feels James’ late-game decision-making and performance are not in line with his overall standard of play.
“You’ve been an MVP, a superstar in our league for 7 or 8 years… get back to that mindset of, ‘Hey, I’m going to make every shot and I’m going to make every big shot. I don’t mind being the hero or the goat.’ Right now it’s almost like he’s hesitant. This guy is so talented, he’s the best player in our league. It’s all about regaining his confidence in the last 2 or 3 minutes of the game.”
Whether or not you subscribe to the notion that James is a choker in the clutch, the list of situations in which he’s been second-guessed continues to grow. In addition to bizarre behavior during the 2010 playoffs against the Boston Celtics and passive fourth-quarter play throughout the 2011 NBA Finals against the Dallas Mavericks, James passed late in the 2012 All-Star Game and opted to pass to Udonis Haslem on the game-deciding possession during a Mar. 2 game against the Jazz in Utah.
James’ backers argue that James is generally finding the open man and therefore making the right basketball play rather than playing “hero ball.” James’ detractors argue that he needs to step up and be more assertive, as his overwhelming talent demands that he be “The Man” with the game on the line, to take the tough shot even if there are other available options.
Johnson tended to side with the detractors, and said that James should be using opportunities like the Jazz game to get more comfortable in preparing for crunch time in the postseason.
“The only way he can really turn this around is he’s got to perform well in the pressure situation,” Johnson said. “You sometimes, you have to use the regular season games to prepare you for the playoffs. That’s why, against Utah, a couple games ago, that’s why we say, ‘Shoot it.’ You want him to shoot it. He made the great basketball play, that’s the right play. But, no, no. This situation is good for you to get ready for June and May because you’re going to be put in that situation where you’ve got to take the shot. Why not pull up? See what happens, and you’re getting used to taking the game-winning shots… Getting the reps, getting your confidence up. No matter what happens — make or miss — it was still a good play for you.”
After the Heat lost to the Mavericks in last year’s Finals, James said he didn’t even want to leave his house.
“It was the worst week I ever had,” James said in an August interview. “I hate losing… I did nothing. Nothing at all.”
Johnson said he went through a similar ordeal when the Lakers lost to the Celtics in the 1984 Finals and he came up short multiple times in that series.
“That summer was the worst summer of my entire life,” he admitted. “I had never really had failed in pressure situations, the big moment. I stayed at home, I only went to the gym and came back. Sat in the dark. Upset, because I failed and I don’t like to lose. What I did — I worked on my game, I made sure I came back better and made sure that if I was ever in those positions again I would never let what happened in 1984 [happen again].”
Of course, Johnson was already a 2-time champion at that point. He had a good idea of what it took to swing that desired transformation.Now, it’s James’ opportunity to flip a career-low into a first ring. He’ll do it without that championship experience and with the voices of thousands of critics, including a Hall of Famer with whom he is often compared, bouncing around in his head. (Ben Golliver – cbssports.com)