CLEVELAND -- LeBron James can’t win. Won’t win these NBA Finals and he’ll never get a unanimous pass into the debate on the greatest player ever.
Never mind that he belongs, or that wherever he goes, from Cleveland and Miami and back to Cleveland, it marks a shift in the league’s balance of power. Or that he’s a threat to post a triple-double every night he steps on the court.
In a league where selflessness is taught and rewarded, usually with widespread praise and often with championships, James too often is disparaged for it.
The latest critique along those lines occurred after the Cavaliers blew a six-point lead to the Warriors in the final 2:20 of Game 3 Wednesday night.
When James met with media Thursday, he was asked about a selfless yet appropriate decision he made that did not turn out well for Cleveland.
“I would do the same exact thing,” James said in his defense.
Inside the final minute, with the Cavs up 113-111, James drove the lane with Draymond Green defending him and Kevin Durant lurking at the rim. Green is a leading Defensive Player of the Year candidate. Durant, at nearly 7 feet, has evolved into a solid rim protector.
Drawing two defenders, James spotted Kyle Korver in the left corner, alone behind the 3-point stripe.
So he passed it.
Korver, whose career 3-point-shooting percentage of 43.1 ranks seventh on the all-time list, missed the open 3.
Some folks blamed James, indicating he should have taken the shot he had.
“If I could have the play over again, I would come off a three-screen situation,” James said. “Draymond would switch on me with five fouls. I would get him leaning. I would drive left. I would see K.D. step up. I would see Stephen Curry drop on Kevin. And I would see Kyle Korver in the corner, one of the greatest three-point shooters in this league's history, and give him an opportunity in the short corner.”
The right decision, every time, even if it sparked debate on social media.
Even if it led to a Durant rebound, after which he dribbled up court and, with James set to challenge, drilled a 3-pointer that gave the Warriors their first lead of the quarter and sent a hush through Quicken Loans Arena.
The Warriors wound up taking a 118-113 victory.
James says he’s willing to live with the ups and downs and the unwarranted barbs.
“I don't even really care,” James said. “I had a 101 drives last night. I didn't have 101, but you get the gist of it. I'm sorry I didn't go for 102. But at the end of the day . . . what is a critic? It doesn't matter.
“One of my favorite quotes, when I really stopped caring about what people say, is Theodore Roosevelt, The Man in the Arena. So if you read that, you'll see where I'm at right now in my life. It doesn't matter to me.”
Here is the Roosevelt quote, from a speech made in 1910, to which James referred:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”