The Faces of LeBron James Fatigue
There is this thing called “LeBron James fatigue,” and it comes in two forms. There’s the fatigue actually demonstrated on the basketball court, the type the player displayed in Game 4. But there’s another fatigue, a fatigue that has been demonstrated by fans and the media for much of the season.
The first type of fatigue is palpable and explainable. As the already-long season has stretched into June, James has been a veritable workhorse. As his team has lost key players, he has taken on more and more. In three games over five days, James played 50 minutes on Sunday, had a travel day, played 46 minutes on Tuesday, and put in 41 minutes on Thursday. He has averaged 42 minutes per game in the playoffs. Considering that 35 minutes is a good day’s work in the NBA, that’s a lot. It was only natural that he and his short-handed team would lose energy on Thursday.
The second type of LeBron fatigue is more visceral. It is a state of mind that has been demonstrated by people who follow basketball. It goes all the way back to the outrageous response people – particularly in Cleveland - gave James four years ago when he made the logical choice to move to Miami and play for the Heat. He was excoriated for that move, then two NBA championships later, welcomed back by the fickle Cleveland fans when he chose to return last summer. James has won four NBA Most Valuable Player Awards, two NBA Finals MVP Awards and an NBA scoring title. So this past season, MVP voters were tripping over each other to pick anyone but LeBron James. Despite the fact that he averaged 25 points, seven assists and six rebounds a game, he wasn’t even considered in contention for the award. It seems people have simply grown tired of James’ success.
Now, faced with the notion of James winning the NBA Finals MVP Award, fans and the media are coming up with any possible reason to deny him. One reason he wouldn’t win is that his team would not win the championship, which looks likely. But people also cite things like shooting percentage, which would be the result of the first type of fatigue. James has played a lot and shot a lot. But when you look at the team on the floor when he’s on the bench, it’s not hard to see why. He is the sole reason his team has won two games in the series and is their best – no, only – shot at a title. You really can’t say the same for Stephen Curry, or anyone else.
Unless James is a total flop for the rest of the series, he’ll make a good case for Finals MVP, win or lose. And let the LeBron James fatigue continue.
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