MIAMI (AP) – LeBron James understands that people hated “The Decision,” mocked his welcoming party, delighted in his finals failure.
He doesn’t care. Those aren’t the people the King aims to please.
“Absolutely not, because at the end of the day, all the people that were rooting on me to fail, at the end of the day, they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life that they had before they woke up today,” James said. “They have the same personal problems they had today. I’m going to continue to live the way I want to live and continue to do the things that I want to do with me and my family and be happy with that.
“They can get a few days or a few months or whatever the case may be on being happy about not only myself, but the Miami Heat not accomplishing their goal. But they have to get back to the real world at some point.”
James left Cleveland for Miami to win titles, so he’d have All-Star help around him and he wouldn’t have to carry the team.
Problem was, the Heat couldn’t carry LeBron.
His disappointing first finals with the Heat ended Sunday night with the Dallas Mavericks’ 105-95 victory in Game 6. James started strong and faltered at the finish, just as the Heat did in this series.
James agreed the loss felt like a “personal failure” but also said “it hurts of course, but I’m not going to hang my head low.”
He averaged just 17.8 points, few of them coming in the clutch situations that define the great players. He tried to console himself by noting that he won two more games this time than he did in his first finals try, when his Cleveland Cavaliers were swept by San Antonio in 2007, and that maybe he could win two more games next time.
He’ll need to. Because until then, the accusations of quitting against Boston in last year’s playoffs, of shrinking under the pressure this time, will only grow louder.
“That doesn’t bother me,” James said. “I understand this is a huge stage, and you want to perform well for nobody else besides your teammates. That’s ultimately what it’s about for me. If I can play well for my teammates, help my teammates win basketball games, then I’m always satisfied with that. It hurts me, and I get on myself when I’m not able to play well and help my teammates win.”
Miami simply couldn’t overcome James’ poor fourth quarters in most of the series. He had only 11 points in the final periods of the first five games, a major reason the Mavericks kept finding ways to rally late in games they trailed much of the way.
He had seven points in the final quarter of this one to finish with 21, but he had gone too long without impacting the game after scoring nine of Miami’s first 14 points.
“Sometimes you got it, sometimes you don’t, and that was this case in this series,” said James, calling Dallas an underrated defensive team that kept him out of the paint.
And while they celebrated in Dallas, there was surely a big bash going on in Ohio, James’ home state. Fans there were stunned and shunned when he decided to leave the Cavaliers, and the hurt turned to rage when he opted to do it in the heavily criticized TV show called “The Decision,” which included the much-mocked announcement that he was taking his talents to South Beach.
And make no mistake, it’s a load of talent. James just couldn’t figure out how to use it in this series.
“Any time you feel like you get to the top of the mountain and you fall off, there’s definitely a personal failure,” James said.
He claimed confusion over how to be most effective when superstar buddy Dwyane Wade was playing well. He said he wasn’t tired from playing too many minutes, that nothing was wrong with his shot.
But something was amiss, because the two-time league MVP, largely considered the most talented player in the NBA, was at best the third-best player in this series behind Dirk Nowitzki and Wade.
The Mavericks showed no fear of James. Jason Terry wondered aloud if James, a first-team All-NBA defender, could guard him for seven games after James shut Terry out in the fourth quarters of Games 1 and 3.
Turns out, James couldn’t. Terry finally broke free in the fourth quarter of the pivotal Game 5 and led the Mavs with 27 points in the clincher.
DeShawn Stevenson claimed it appeared James “checked out” down the stretch in Game 4.
James had become perhaps the league’s most-scrutinized player since last July, with the way he left the Cavs rubbing so many the wrong way. But it was rare for him to receive such criticism for what happened on the court as he did during this series.
He never got to play with another great player in Cleveland, where he eventually felt he would never be able to win a title. So while there was ridicule over the way he did it, there was understanding why he left Cleveland, why he felt he needed better players around him.
But it also meant nothing but a title would do for James’ critics, something he seemed to understand when he pointed out after Game 5 that he had a triple-double but it was viewed by many as a bad performance, because he did so little in the fourth quarter.
And one of his biggest critics, Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, fired a quick shot on Twitter, congratulating the Mavs and noting that “There are NO SHORTCUTS. NONE.”
When it was over, James walked over to Wade for a hug, then shook hands with some Mavericks players. Nothing quite like the spectacle he found in this arena last summer, when the Heat hosted an over-the-top pep rally to celebrate winning the free agency championship by adding James and Chris Bosh.
And that’s the only crown the King gets to wear for now.
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