Miami's Dwyane Wade, left, and teammate Miami Heat's LeBron… (Rick Bowmer / Associated…)
Once the final minutes tick down, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James remain a study in contrasts.
Bryant looks to make the game-winner, no matter the obstacles: the shot clock winding down, poorly run offense, swarm of double teams. Usually nothing stops Bryant from taking the last shot. A courageous act for some, selfishness for others.
James looks to the make the correct basketball play, no matter how much the public expects him to take the final shot. If he sees a double team, James finds the open guy, such as when he found Udonis Haslem open for a 16-footer in the Heat's loss Friday to Utah. A fundamentally sound act for some, cowardice for others.
Having coached both James in Cleveland and Bryant with the Lakers, Mike Brown provided the best perspective on how superstars should play in the final moments.
"When you have a great player, you live with what the great player provides," Brown said. "Kobe, LeBron,D-Wade, those type of players. Durant. Can they score in double coverage? Yes. As a coach, would you take them shooting in double coverage? Yes. But if they made a play or a pass to a guy they thought was open? Are you mad at that? No.
"That's how I feel. If you feel like you can step up and knock this shot down, do it and I will ride with you. You make it, we'll celebrate. If you don't, we'll move on to the next game. If you don't, I'm still riding with you because you're my guy and you did what you're supposed to do. You did what you felt was best, I trust you and I believe in you."
Brown doesn't say it. But his commentary helps explain why James shouldn't face criticism for passing up shots in the final moments. Bryant has done so, such as when he connected with Derek Fisher for a game-winner in mid-January against the Dallas Mavericks. James deserves criticism for passing up late-game shots in the NBA Finals, the All-Star game and against Utah because he apeared afraid to do so and then lamented about it afterward.
But as far as James' decision-making, Brown does not see an issue.
"He's a great player. I know if I'm coaching him and he did that, I don't have a problem at all," Brown said. "Nine times out of 10, he makes the right basketball play. If not more. His basketball IQ is extremely high. To me, it wasn't a big deal."
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