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“You just can’t give him freebies” — Jason Kidd reveals how the Mavs limited LeBron James in the 2011 Finals

The Mavs gave LeBron a lesson in the importance of versatility.
Miami Heat forward LeBron James

LeBron James

Jason Kidd and the Dallas Mavericks pulled off an almost impossible task of stopping the Miami Heat juggernaut led by LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh in the 2011 finals. After over a decade, the current coach of the Mavs shared their secrets in containing James.

“You just can’t give him freebies”

Kidd, who was already 37 when he won a championship with Dallas in 2011, played excellent defense in the Finals. He totaled 7 steals, 5 blocks, 38 assists, and 27 rebounds in six games. Kidd revealed it was a total team effort when asked what worked for the Mavs, especially on the defensive end, trying to limit King James’ production on the floor.

The game plan was just to give him different looks and different bodies. We just tried to make it tough for LeBron. He’s gonna score, he’s gonna get his attempts but you just can’t give him freebies because if you give him freebies that’s where he can hurt you.

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James only averaged 17.8 points in that series, along with 7.2 rebounds and 6.8 assists. The points average was way below his career finals average of 28.4 points per game. Dallas put the clamps on James in Games 3, 4, and 5, where The King struggled from the field, shooting below 43% in those games.

LeBron would still get his shots, but the trick was to make it tougher for him. Once he gets his dunks and long-range 3s, the crowd gets into it, and it also ignites his teammates, making any team he is on harder to beat.

Dallas Mavericks’ LeBron James stoppers

So, who were the primary antagonists in making LeBron James’ life miserable in 2011? As Kidd mentioned, the Mavs threw everything but the kitchen sink. He had his turn guarding LeBron, amongst Tyson Chandler, Shawn Marion, and Jason Terry. Most famously, JJ Barea gave LeBron problems as well.

On the other hand, that loss made James better. J-Kidd may seem slow due to age at that time, but his mind remained sharp, enabling him to position his body in anticipation of where his opponent would go.

The King admitted he vowed to be better after that Finals loss. Everyone expected the Heat to win that one, but as with anything, team effort still trumps individual brilliance. The Mavs group was full of veterans at that time who knew what had to be done to win. After losing to Kidd and the Mavs, James won his first championship a year later.

Now, Kidd is the Mavs coach and applies the techniques in stopping LeBron James. He’s the perfect example of someone walking the talk because he’s been there, done that. 

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