It didn’t take long for LeBron James to show us how much the 2012 NBA Finals were as a confidence builder.
With his teammates unable to convert and his team facing an unheralded upset, James would be the one to lead the team from the brink of disaster. Facing an 84-82 deficit against Lithuania, the reigning league and Finals MVP would score nine of his 20 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Americans to a 99-94 victory. James hit a three-pointer to give Team USA a cushion and layups throughout. LeBron became the only player on the American team that was making a conscious effort at taking it inside against a packed lane.
It didn’t appear that we’d see that type of LeBron, either. To start the fourth quarter, James was playing passive as a facilitator; attempting to get his teammates involved. The passing duties failed, however, as nobody could locate their perimeter shot or take it inside. So with his team down by two and six minutes remaining, James went to work as the scorer we have become so accustomed to seeing.
On defense, he also blocked a layup and performed his usual lockdown perimeter defender.
On a team with the likes of Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant, James was the one who dominated on both ends of the floor. The Americans may have ended up losing this game if not for James, who is continuing to push his game to new heights by finding new ways to solve and adjust to defenses.
The international game could be difficult for a player like LeBron, too. Opposing teams have been running zones and exhibit great chemistry in their team defense. It becomes incredibly difficult for the Americans to break through the line of defense, which is a reason why you see them taking so many three-pointers. That shouldn’t bode well for a driver for James, yet he’s been the Americans best all-around player.
LeBron’s worldwide tour of basketball destruction continues into the Quarterfinals when his team takes on Australia. If he wins the Gold, he’ll become the first player since Michael Jordan in 1992 to win league MVP, Finals MVP, an NBA championship and the Olympic’s highest honor in the same year. Needless to say, this has been the best year of James’ Hall-of-Fame worthy career.
These Olympic games James has been a part of may only further his game to newer and higher levels. James is uncovering more about himself every game he plays and realizing more of his potential. LeBron is the type of player that has made basketball a daily regiment and taking the summer off was never an option. Especially this summer, which is going to be the icing on this legendary year of basketball.
Playing these games keeps James in a rhythm and allows him to refine his skills in a competitive environment. Instead of waiting until training camp or participating in just workouts, James is playing competitive full-court games against some of the world’s greatest players. Even though the best players are on his side, certain international teams use fundamentals extremely well on both ends of the court.
A team like Lithuania in fact. A team that ran a defense extremely similar to that of the Dallas Mavericks in the 2011 NBA Finals; utilizing a team strategy and forcing constant pressure on the perimeter. It was the same defense that held James to 18 points per game and virtually nonexistent in the fourth quarter. This time around, however, it was James coming out on top with 20 points, hitting a number of shots inside.
It was the same LeBron we saw last year. When he went into the 2011-’12 season, James went in with the mentality that he must get the ball inside at all costs. It ended up resulting in a higher field-goal percentage and a decrease in his three-point attempts. James spent more time working on his post-game rather than relying on the hot-and-cold jumper. It resulted in a lot more cleaner possessions and far more open opportunities for his teammates.
In an Olympics where everyone seems to be relying on three-pointers, it’s great to see LeBron keeping defense’s honest by utilizing his otherworldly driving ability. If he’s keeping that mentality in the Olympics, then it should easily carry over into next season. By then, he’ll have a better knowledge of team defenses and ways to break through.
Most of all, it’s an endearment to how great he can be. He’ll be rolling into next season off the high of winning his second Gold Medal and his first championship, an experience he has never felt before. The floodgates could possibly be opening for James. This is a player who relies heavily on his confidence and with the knowing that he’s a national and world champion could be the key to keeping this Heat dynasty running.
Following the 2008 Olympics and riding the high of his first Gold Medal, LeBron James came home and averaged 28.4 points, 7.6 rebounds and 7.2 assists per to win his first league MVP.
James is only going to continue working when he gets back. Training camp starts in a few months and James is going to find ways to improve his post-game. With his confidence at an all-time high, LeBron James should utilize this Olympic experience as a way to not only continue furthering his legacy, but to continue improving a sky-is-the-limit all-around game.