If there is one player in NBA history whose career has been picked apart detail by detail, it's LeBron James. Since day one, LeBron's every move and career has been in the spotlight as the proclaimed "Chosen One" had to live up to his nickname. Sure LeBron brought the hype upon himself, but he delivered, accomplishing an illustrious career that is still going. Rings, MVP titles, All-NBA's, and numerous highlights all marked James's career.
But still, amongst all those incredible feats LeBron accomplished, he couldn't go by without more than a few bad moments. Numerous Finals losses, controversial off-court statements, switching teams, and similar stuff made LeBron easily the most hated player in the league, alongside being the face of the NBA. But by many, the worst moment of LeBron's career happened in 2011.
After becoming the villain and joining forces with Wade and Bosh in Miami, LeBon was public enemy number 1, hated for leaving his original franchise to form a superteam in chase of a ring. Anything but a championship would have been a fatal disappointment. And that's precisely what happened.
Going into the Finals against Dirk's Dallas Mavericks, LeBron's Heat were the heavy favorites, although nobody rooted for them. The first season in Miami was at the finish line, and LeBron had the chance to shut up all the critics and win his first ring. As if they weren't hated enough, mocking Dirk with the fake coughing alongside Wade made LeBron, and the Heat, even more scrutinized, and along the way, motivated Dirk to simply destroy them.
And that's exactly what happened, as the Mavericks turned around the series to win in six games and shock the Heat. It was an utter disappointment and meltdown of a magnitude we had never ever seen before from a superstar, especially of LeBron's talent. That moment alone by many already had him out of the GOAT conversation, as his teammate at the time Eddie House went on Undisputed a few years ago, saying how LeBron simply didn't show up. Something MJ never did:
"I can't get over the fact he didn't show up in Dallas. Not only because I was on the team, but the fact he was the best player and everybody was dependent on him to show up and do what he does, and he was M.I.A. He had a bad series. Jordan never had that. People killed James Harden for having a bad series last year, but you going to say somebody who quit in the Finals, [at] the end of everything, when all the marbles are on the table, that he's the greatest of all time? I can't buy it."
Eddie House, Undisputed on FS1
Considering House was LeBron's peer in battle in those Finals, and actually, a valuable piece of the team holds a lot of weight. It was LeBron like we have never seen him before, averaging only 17.8 ppg, 7.2 rpg, and 6.2 apg. Not a lousy stat line, but for a superstar considered to be one of the best in history, not nearly enough. Especially if you add in an 8-point performance in a crucial Game 4.
Those kinds of meltdowns and mental blocks plagued LeBron during his career, even though he persevered a couple of times. Whether he surpassed MJ or not is up for debate, but one thing is for sure. These moments are the first evidence MJ fans will display when debating the GOAT conversation. And with sound reasoning. If you want to be the best, you must perform when the stakes are the highest with consistency. Simple as that.