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LeBron James

“I spoil a lot of people with my play,” James said after shooting 3-for-14. “When you have a bad game here or there, you’ve had three bad games in a seven-year career, then it’s easy to point that out.”

-LeBron James, commenting after his disappointing performance against Boston in Game 5.

Reaction to LeBron’s surprisingly-arrogant comments about his abysmal Game 5 varied. The LeBron sycophants agreed, while others wondered what LeBron did to earn the right to be so arrogant. To the “haters,” at least from what I see, LeBron might want to win something of significance — outside of the regular season — before he acts so dismissively. Granted, if James comes out tonight and leads his Cavaliers to a Game 7, all of the post-Game 5 hot air will be pushed to the side.

Nevertheless, I take issue with LeBron’s “three bad games in a seven-year career” response because, well, it’s wrong and fairly disingenuous. With that in mind, I did a little bit of research (A blogger doing research? Perish the thought.) at Basketball-Reference.com and found out James might want to recount his bad game totals, or perhaps redefine what a “bad game” is; at least in his eyes. For me, the criteria is as follows: the Cavaliers lose, LeBron shoots under 43% (his career average is 47%) and more than two turnovers.

Unfortunately, the only thing lacking from my quick glance at some of his seasons-past stats is whether or not James “tried,” something he was accused of not doing against Boston. For a starting point, I began with the 2007-08 season, which followed the Cavaliers getting swept by the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals.

Bad Game 1
As indicated, the 2007-08 season is my starting point, and a quick glance shows LeBron had a bad outing in the first game of the season, a loss to the Dallas Mavericks on 10/31/07. Playing 36 minutes, James shot 2-11 (0-2 from behind the arc), 6-10 from the free throw line and had five turnovers. His final stat line goes like this:

10 points, 4 assists, 5 turnovers and 4 fouls, making this game number one.

By James’ count, he should only have one more bad game from here on out, up until Tuesday night’s Game 5 loss against Boston. Unfortunately, that’s not quite accurate.

Bad Game Number 1.5
12/23/07, a 105-96 loss against the Golden State Warriors. Lebron was 8-20 (0-2 from 3-point land and 9-13 from the charity stripe) and had three turnovers. Granted, his eight assists made up for the turnovers, but if he shoots a normal percentage and hits a few more free throws, Cleveland wins and this couldn’t be categorized as a “bad game.”

That, technically, is two, but considering James finished with 25 points, I’ll only count it as a half.

Bad game Number 2 (or 2.5)
12/29/07, an ugly 86-76 loss to the New Orleans Hornets. For the game, LeBron shot 8-21 (1-4 from behind the arc) and had four turnovers and only six assists.

I’m counting this one as a whole, bringing LeBron’s total, by his count, to 3.5 bad games. I’m guessing he doesn’t consider those two games to be bad outings. I disagree.

Bad Game Number 3.5
2/27/08, a 92-87 loss to his current nemesis, the Boston Celtics. LeBron had a horrible shooting game, going 7-24 from the field (1-6 from behind the arc), as well as three turnovers and only four assists. By anyone’s definition, this is a bad game, giving him 3-3.5 for the 2007-08 season.

While there are others in the individual season I’m looking at (here, here and here, for instance), continuing seems like overkill.

I think you see the point I’m getting at — that is, LeBron shouldn’t be so dismissive of poor performances. They, like life, happen. It doesn’t diminish his ability as a basketball player. However, his attitude concerning his surprisingly poor play against Boston leaves something to be desired when it comes to defending him. Here’s an idea, why not just go out and play your hardest? That way, no one will be able to question your effort, which, at least to me, was a bigger concern following Game 5. If LeBron goes out with a fight, his poor shooting wouldn’t be magnified like it has been since Game 5 ended.

Who knows? Maybe he’s just sandbagging the Celtics — and fans — into believing he’s hurt so he can finish the series with flourish while strengthening his hold as the “best player in basketball” title. As it stands, he simply sounds like an excuse-making poor loser, and I doubt he wants to be remembered in such a manner.