LeBron James can't win even if he wins.
Yeah, yeah, that was a great Game 6, up there with Wilt Chamberlain and apparently no one else, but that's so 48 hours ago. If James doesn't deliver in Game 7, we are going to call him a choker, a failure, and no Michael Jordan, no way, no how.
By “we,” I mean the couch jockeys of the world who continue to denigrate James. These couch jockeys couldn't hit four jump shots in a row if their diminished 401Ks depended on it, but they're quick to say what LeBron can't do.
I'm a couch jockey, too, but I'm going to spend my time enjoying James' play for what it is. This is what people miss: If we're spending too much time on what James hasn't done, we're missing the thrill of seeing what he can do.
There is nothing LeBron can do to satisfy his detractors.
Suppose the Heat beat the Celtics tonight in the Eastern Conference finals, and then beat the Thunder to win the title. Will that satisfy James' critics? Hardly. That's only one title more than Charles Barkley, Karl Malone or Reggie Miller.
Suppose the Heat win the next three NBA titles. Will that satisfy James' critics? That's only half of what Jordan had, and Jordan never lost in The Finals.
I repeat: There is nothing LeBron can do, except continue to amaze those of us willing to enjoy it.
ESPN threw up this stat late in the game Thursday: James was the first player to compile at least 45 points, 15 rebounds and five assists in a playoff game since Wilt in 1964. Ponder that for a moment. Out of all of the NBA players who have had moments in the playoffs the last 48 years, none produced as big a game as James in Game 6.
But, of course, this will not count as a “clutch” performance should the Heat lose again, ever. No, this game will have its usual short shelf life, downgraded because the Celtics are old again. If the Heat beat the Celtics, despite having to win in Boston in an elimination game, it won't be celebrated.
James has his faults. He defers too much sometimes in late-game situations. But that deference can be interpreted as unselfishness, too. His willingness to pass and set up his teammates is quite reminiscent of Larry Bird, although I rarely see those two compared.
Killer instinct – the unwavering focus that separated Jordan from mere mortals – is not a natural part of James' makeup. He has spent his athletic life being equal parts celebrity and athlete, pretty much a curse of being born in this era of 24/7 coverage.
The look on his face in Game 6 was one I'm not sure we've ever seen, certainly not over the course of 45 minutes. (He finished off the Celtics early enough to watch mop-up time.)
James' biggest fault is that he doesn't naturally possess a killer instinct. Jordan was willing to do anything to win. It didn't make him likeable with some teammates and many opponents. It gave him championships.
If James can dig deep enough to generate that approach, which he did in Game 6, the Heat will cruise tonight. Perhaps the idiot Boston fan who dumped a drink on him when he was exiting the arena unintentionally made sure his intensity continues.
For those who judge James on his titles, he'll always come up short, even if he wins a handful. He brought some of this on himself with his ridiculous televised departure from Cleveland and the equally ridiculous welcome to Miami. Since then, he's kept self-promotion to a minimum.
LeBron James is no Michael Jordan. He's no Wilt Chamberlain. He's no Magic Johnson. He's no Larry Brid. He's LeBron James.
And if the couch jockey critics can't appreciate him, in his time, they're the real losers.