LeBron James’ decision to pass up a potential game-winning shot in the 2012 NBA All-Star Game was cited by ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith as one reason why Michael Jordan was better than James.
In a conversation with Shannon Sharpe, Smith stated (at the 34:56 mark) how the trio of Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony all immediately criticized James for his game decision.
“The following year with the All-Star Game,” Smith said. “You got the ball in your hands. It’s an exhibition. It’s an exhibition. It doesn’t count. It’s all in fun. Kobe claps his hands, God rest his soul, and he’s like, ‘Yo, come on with it.’ You got D-Wade on the court. You got Melo in the corner, and he threw the pass. All three of them, along with Kobe, descended on LeBron and said, ‘Yo, what’s up? What you doin’?’ Because they knew he was psyched out. He was messed up.”
That particular contest took place on Feb. 26, 2012 in Orlando, with the Western Conference eventually winning by a score of 152-149. The chaotic final seconds put a damper on the inspired second-half comeback by the Eastern Conference, which had trailed 88-69 at halftime.
Wade and Anthony have been close friends of James for years, while the iconic Bryant was revered by James. On the night prior to Bryant’s tragic death in January 2020, James passed the Los Angeles Lakers legend on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.
Smith’s psychological assessment of the Lakers superstar stemmed from James’ struggles in the previous NBA Finals.
At that time, James was a member of the Miami Heat and was facing the Dallas Mavericks for the league championship. In the 2011 NBA Finals, the Heat watched a 2-1 advantage in the series disappear as the Mavericks ran off three straight victories.
In the final three games of that series, James had his ups and downs, including an eight-point performance in Game 4. However, he bounced back with a triple-double in the Game 5 loss before contributing 21 points, six assists and four rebounds in the Mavericks’ Game 6 clincher.
The finals loss was devastating to James, whose controversial signing with the Heat the previous year sparked backlash against him. At the start of the 2010-11 season, the Heat were considered a prime candidate to capture the NBA title.
James managed to erase that bad memory over the next two seasons by leading the Heat to consecutive NBA championships. Then, after returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2014, he led that franchise to its first title in 2016.
Moving on to the Lakers in 2018, James earned his fourth championship ring by defeating the Heat during the pandemic-delayed 2020 NBA Finals.
While Smith is paid handsomely to offer hot takes and deliver often-controversial commentary, his assessment really doesn’t carry any more weight than the average person. That’s why it’s likely that James will end up ignoring the commentator’s opinion.