PlayBook: A Stat-Laden, Gunpoint Apology

By Fraser Lockerbie

Many words have been spilled over the postseason play of LeBron James and very few of them have been good. Today, we as sportswriters, apologize to the greatest player of the generation.

“Columnists are jackals and no jackal has been known to live on grass once he has learned about meat — no matter who killed the meat for him.” — Ernest Hemingway

It was sometime during the aplitic pause between Games Three and Four that collectively, we sportswriters, an at times closed-minded fraternity hell-bent on human destruction at any cost, came to the impossible yet seemingly inevitable conclusion that our LeBron-bashing days were over. That all the far-fetched, selective stat skewing would have to stop. At some point the resignation set in that perhaps we had pushed the best player in the NBA too far, tried too tirelessly to marginalize his talent behind a veil of carefully culled but not entirely true numbers, figures that failed to tell the whole story. At some point we opted for what was easy over what was right. We chose to perpetuate a negative narrative because it sold more papers, signed on more subscriptions. “If it bleeds, it leads” was our everlasting mantra and the more slash-and-dash journalism we aimed at LeBron James, the more the blood began to pool at our feet.

Indeed, we are jackals, hung up so long on a now-stale kill, a now newly crowned king, that we only saw what we wanted to see in our blind, blood-lusting eyes. We ignored the numbers piling up right in front of us, opting instead for a more damning, sensationalist stat line to keep our story alive, to put as cutting an edge on the word choke as we possibly could. And we’re backtracking today. Today, we’re all kind words and kudos, the wanton, whimpering dogs of apology. Today, LeBron James is an NBA Champion and we’re just the jackals who hijacked the headlines, who juked and jeered and picked the bones clean till there was nothing left to burn, let alone eat.

And so, in the words of Douglas Campbell or Jack Kevorkian or some sacrificial parson from the first century A.D.: “When there’s nothing left to burn, you have to set yourself on fire.” The following stat lines are as close to an admission of wrongdoing and guilt as I feel comfortable giving as a self-centered sports columnist with a rep to protect:

  • LeBron James is only the third player in NBA history to lead a title team in points, rebounds and assists (the other two are Tim Duncan and Magic Johnson).

  • The Heat are the only team to win a title after trailing in three different postseason series.

  • LeBron James put up a triple double (26/11/13) in last night’s title, clinching Game Five. It was his first triple double of the season. In Game Four, he was one rebound shy (26/12/9). No one has put up those kinds of numbers since Larry Bird in 1986.

  • LeBron James had 12 games this postseason of at least 25 points, five rebounds and five assists, the most ever in a single postseason.

  • LeBron James had 14 points on 4-for-7 shooting in clutch time (five minutes to play in the fourth or overtime and within five points) in the Finals. Last year, he had zero points and failed to even draw a foul.

  • Since 2009, LeBron’s teams are 9-2 in series-clinching games and he has averaged 27.7 ppg.

  • James fell just three points short of joining Allen Iverson, Hakeem Olajuwon, Michael Jordan and Shaquille O’Neal as the fifth person with 700+ points in a single postseason.

  • At 27, LeBron James has made three trips to the Finals, won three MVP awards and won one championship. Michael Jordan didn’t make a Finals appearance or win a championship until 28 and at LeBron’s age, had only one MVP award.

  • During the Age of His Airness, Jordan had two postseason triple-doubles and never broke off a streak of 25 points per game over 14 games. LeBron already has eight postseason triple doubles and has managed the 25-over-24 streak twice. He is the only player ever to do it even once.

  • LeBron is the only player in NBA history with at least 650 points, 200 rebounds and 100 assists in a single postseason. 


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