LeBron James hasn’t been the same since that possibly meaningful All-Star Game … you know, the one LeBron dominated until the final minute, then passed up a chance to close (earning not one but two on-court lectures from a semi-disgusted Kobe). Following the predictable media backlash (and then the backlash to the backlash), it was easy to say, “Come on, everybody, it’s just an All-Star Game, this doesn’t matter.”
I’m not so sure. LeBron famously shrank from The Moment against Boston. A friend of mine sat right next to Miami’s bench in Dallas during Game 4 of the Finals and told me the following story: If you remember, Dallas called timeout after Miami jumped to a seven-point lead with 10 minutes to play. The series looked like it was over, or headed that way, barring a semi-improbable comeback. Wade had been carrying them for this game and the previous one; now, the table was set for LeBron to bring them home. His teammates knew better than anyone.