Time to Vent: LeBron, Matt Harpring, and the Growing Infatuation with “Hero Ball”

Utah Jazz color man Matt Harpring immediately after Utah’s one-point win over Miami:

“He passed it again… LeBron James.  Passed.  The.  Ball. Again… I’m stunned he gave it to Haslem… This is exactly why he’s been criticized… Does he just want more criticism?… Win or lose the game yourself! Kobe Bryant never would have passed that shot up!”

I used to respect Matt Harpring.  Blue-collar, smash-mouth, old-school type guys like him were the kind of players I was forced to model my game around due to an overwhelming lack of skill and athleticism.

Feb. 23, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat small forward LeBron James (6) during the second half against the New York Knicks at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

The major difference between me and Harpring though (other than incredible size and ability), I now realize, is that I don’t fall in line with typical know-nothing, ill-advised, fan-inflated talking points.  I know a good shot in a game-winning situation when I see one.  I thought Harpring was a smart enough basketball mind to see that, too, but I was wrong.  He, a former player lauded for his basketball IQ, fell victim to the now normal idea surrounding LeBron James, hero ball, and game-winning shots.

James caught the in-bounds pass with four seconds remaining, going left up the near sideline.  His dribble was cut-off by his man and the helper coming from Haslem’s direction, so LeBron made the smart, easy, should-be-winning play.  The one that gave his team a far better chance to come away victorious than a fadeaway 25 footer that players like Bryant have taken to define hero ball.

He made a simple bounce pass to Haslem for a wide open jumper at the top of the key.  A shot Haslem’s made his career on.  Unfortunately for Miami, LeBron, and all the intelligent hoops minds out there, U.D. missed it.  Long and left.  That’s it.  Game over.

Nevermind that James had scored 17 electrifying fourth quarter points to give his team a chance to win.  Or that he did so playing the very brand of hero ball he correctly chose to reject on the game’s fateful possession.

None of that matters.  A new chapter is written in the LeBron Isn’t Clutch encyclopedia.  That isn’t a surprise.  What is is that people like Harpring have now bought into the rhetoric, and it’s a maddening, disheartening development for all those that appreciate advanced crunch time statistics and true team basketball.

Like we at Saving the Skyhook.  Pass on, LeBron.  It was the right play.

Hardwood Paroxysm