Did LeBron James Choke Against the Spurs?

Yarden Leshem, Contributing Writer

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First off, the Spurs @ Lakers (10/22/18) was a fun game to watch. With both teams shooting over 50%, clutch shots, overtime, and an overall high scoring game of 143-142, this one went down to the wire. After trailing, the Lakers started a gradual comeback in the 2nd quarter. When the game was in its final minute, the Lakers picked their comeback pace up, completing an 8-0 run to tie the game. This would not have been possible without LeBron’s insanely clutch shot. With six seconds left, LeBron brought the ball up and shot it way beyond the three point line with the defender in his face to tie the game and send it to overtime. In overtime, the game was a shootout, with the teams exchanging baskets until Patty Mills hit a two-pointer to give the Spurs a one point lead. LeBron then got intentionally fouled and missed both his free throws, resulting in the Spurs winning the game. After LeBron’s missed free throws, the debate began: Did LeBron choke?

Well, let’s look at the stats. LeBron shot 44% from the field with 8 reb, 14 ast, 5 to, and 32 pts. His free throw percentage that game was 72%. LeBron was irrefutably clutch, as he put up incredible numbers, the best on his team, and hit an incredibly unlikely, difficult shot with six seconds on the clock. LeBron also showed up when it mattered, scoring 5 of the 14 points made in overtime. So, the question of whether or not LeBron was clutch has an obvious and factual answer: He was. He showed up, especially when it mattered, and made a clutch shot at a vital point under tremendous pressure. LeBron, throughout his career, has proven time and time again that he is clutch. The only problem this time is that he fell short on the free throws, but he didn’t choke, as he is not known to be a knockdown free throw shooter. If it was Steve Nash or Stephen Curry shooting, then I would call it a choke, but it wasn’t. It was a 72% free throw shooter who is known to be able to do everything but knock down free throws consistently. He’s even said himself that for him to feel complete he needs to get his free throw shooting above 80%. Critics say LeBron could have passed it to Josh Hart, a player whose free throw percentage is 67%. Instead, LeBron kept the ball and took the foul. I do not blame LeBron, as he is the leader of the team, and has already faced criticized for not being assertive. The problem is that a player so great is going to always have criticism, so it is a lose-lose situation for him whichever route he goes. LeBron and the Lakers just need to keep pushing forward. This was only the third game the Lakers have played with their new team together, and they have the toughest first 20 game schedule. They are young, and without the appearance of key player Brandon Ingram, they were still able to compete. The real test comes when they play the Spurs on 10/27 with Brandon Ingram, as they try to pull off a win. The Lakers have great potential, and with time, can get better by building up their chemistry and make a run in the playoffs.