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Can we let LeBron be LeBron?

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Can we let LeBron be LeBron?

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In Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals, Mark Jackson brought out the dreaded “if this were MJ or Kobe…” argument on LeBron James.

The Cavaliers were on their way to a 2-0 series deficit, and ESPN analyst Jackson was critical of Lebron not taking enough shots, compared to Kobe or Michael Jordan, who would have “gone down shooting” according to Jackson.

James finished the game with 42 points, 12 assists, and 10 rebounds.

The comparisons have followed Lebron James throughout his entire career, especially the comparison to Michael Jordan, widely considered the greatest basketball player of all-time.

The main criticism of James has been his supposed lack of a “clutch gene” and “killer instinct”, which Jordan is famed for. Whenever James has a postseason loss, the classic “Jordan would never have lost this way” argument crops up.

Let’s be clear: Lebron James is not Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant. LeBron is LeBron, and playing like LeBron has led him to one of the most glittering careers in sports history.

This is why Mark Jackson’s criticism is so off-base. Lebron does not need to play like MJ or Kobe to be special.

7 straight Finals appearances, 4 MVPs, 3 Championships, 3 Finals MVPs, and people still think Lebron needs to have a different mentality in big games.

Now, to be fair, the criticism was justified after the 2011 Finals series against the Dallas Mavericks, when LeBron struggled to assert himself and seemed to shrink from the moment as the Miami Heat lost in the Finals.

But what has he done since then?

Lebron James’ Game 6 at Boston.

Six straight Finals appearances, 3 championships, defeating a 73 win team in the Finals, averaging a triple-double in the 2017 Finals, and the list goes on and on.

He has proved again and again that the lack of a “killer instinct” argument is silly. His 2012 Game 6 in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics was one of the greatest playoff performances of all-time in an elimination game. James scored 45 points and grabbed 15 rebounds in route to his first NBA championship.

In 2013, when he was down 3-2 in the NBA Finals, he scored 32 points in Game 6 and 37 points in Game 7 to win his second NBA championship.

In 2016, when he was down 3-1 to the greatest regular season team of all-time, he had back-to-back 41 point games, and then a game 7 triple-double, including his signature block to win the Finals and become the unanimous Finals MVP.

Lebron James iconic block in the 2016 NBA Finals.

The idea that he is not clutch needs to die. So does the criticism around his mentality.

Lebron James does not need to be told how to play basketball. He is the greatest basketball talent of all time, and has one of the highest basketball IQ’s of all time.

Lebron James makes the right basketball decision again and again in clutch moments. If he is given the shot, he takes it. If someone else is open, he passes it.

Sure, this might be different than Kobe and Michael Jordan’s mentality to shoot at the end of games, even if they might not be the highest quality shots.

But how can Jackson criticize LeBron’s mentality after everything Lebron has accomplished by playing his way?

His criticism is silly and old, and it detracts from one of the most brilliant sports careers in history.

Never before has the NBA seen a player like LeBron James. A force of nature who can score at will, while also being one of the most prolific passers in the history of the game.

The accomplishments speak for themselves. LeBron plays basketball like LeBron, and in doing so has become inarguably a top 5 basketball player of all-time, if not top 2.

Mark Jackson, appreciate LeBron for who he is as a basketball player, not that he’s not like Jordan or Kobe.

He’s never been Jordan or Kobe, and that is okay.

Being LeBron has served him just fine.

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Can we let LeBron be LeBron?