LeBron's post game has flown under the radar but he's ready to unleash it for the playoffs.
It's that time of the NBA season where we hand out awards so I feel totally OK about saying this declaratively:
This piece from Couper Moorhead of HEAT.com about LeBron James' post game is my favorite post of the season.
It's that good.
As bloggers/journalists/analysts/fans of the game, this is what we should strive for in our coverage. Moorhead produced a perfect storm of video, scouting, reporting, data analysis, historical research, myth-busting and storytelling. It's all there.
So, there's this meme floating out there in the ether that states: a) LeBron does not have a post game; b) LeBron does not have the drive to develop one; c) LeBron does not care to fulfill his potential as a basketball player.
Moorhead quickly and definitively demolishes all three of these myths with a sledgehammer.
Through his work with assistant coach David Fizdale, LeBron has built a repertoire of post moves this season and he has been incredibly effective.
How effective? He scores more points per post-up than Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony and Joe Johnson.
LeBron's better than those guys in the post? If you don't believe the statistics, that's fine. Moorhead, like any credentialed member of the media should, uses his access with the team to ask questions. He wants to get to the bottom of this observation.
So Moorhead talks to Coach Fizdale about the technical side of LeBron's post game. Where does LeBron need work? Moorhead then has the coach walk us through LeBron's psychology and how LeBron thinks about himself and his game. Does LeBron want to be better?
Fizdale says something that may shock people: LeBron is humble about this. From Moorhead's piece:
"I commend him for having the humility to say he needs to improve at it," Fizdale said. "That’s a big thing for a guy that could have an ego that says, ‘No, I’m good at this already,’ but he has the humility to say, ‘No, I need to get better,’ and he puts in the time.”
Fizdale then taps into a fascinating dynamic between fans and athletes:
“People just pay attention to his failures,” Fizdale says. “People just point the finger at stuff without really doing their research there’s no accountability in people that make that criticisms, so we don’t listen to that.”
What Fizdale is getting at is a little pesky thing that happens in our brain that psychologists refer to as confirmation bias. Basically, we tend to pay close attention to things that confirm our preconceived notions and ignore what doesn't. LeBron didn't have a post game entering the league and therefore, when he doesn't make the shot, we jump all over him for it. But if LeBron is putting up these great efficiencies in the post, why isn't anyone talking about it? It probably has something to do with our confirmation bias.
This isn't new territory for LeBron. There's this notion that LeBron does not have an elite jump shot and yet, he shoots better on long 2s (44 percent) than famed jump-shooters Carmelo Anthony (39 percent), Kevin Durant (39 percent) and Kobe Bryant (38 percent).
And Moorhead goes into something else: maybe it's because LeBron lacks the style and grace that captures our senses.
All great artists have a style. You can recognize a tracking shot from Martin Scorsese or a smooth piano beat from Dr. Dre the same as a Clint Eastwood squint or John Williams fanfare.
But when you see James – this is an issue shared by Dwight Howard – what are you seeing? Do the words come easy? Nearly each one of the plays shown above features a different action, and this is not by choice. Can you describe what you see above as easily as you could the post games of Jordan, Kareem Abdul Jabbar or Hakeem Olajuwon?
What sells to coaches may not sell to fans. Coaches want efficiency, which leads to wins. Fans want entertainment, which leads to viewing satisfaction. LeBron's post game does not yet have the style points, but it does have positive results.
Considering the facts don't mesh with LeBron's reputation, Moorhead brings in the video. And this is where he takes his analysis to the next level. Moorhead shows us the tape and introduces us to LeBron's toolbox of moves.
A conversation with Fizdale and Spoelstra reveals that LeBron is working on his rocker-step and his running hooks. If you don't know what those are, that's cool. Just watch the video. And listen to those inside the game explain what LeBron's up to.
This is the terrific appetizer for the playoffs. Eat it up, folks.