2011 NBA finals marked the start of a historic run by LeBron James, a run that included nine consecutive NBA finals, three NBA championships, and three finals MVPs. However, the series that started the run to this day is considered to be the lowest point of King James’s career. It’s a series vs. Dallas, who many believed were underdogs playing LeBron’s Miami Heat. The Mavericks won the series by winning Game 6 in Miami and celebrating the title in front of Heat’s fans. Dirk Nowitzki was a Finals MVP while the most disappointing finals performance belonged to LeBron, scoring only 8 points in game 4 and finishing the series averaging only 17.8 ppg while shooting poorly from the field.
One of the critical factors for the Mavericks in that series was Jason Terry who, right before the 2011 season started got the Larry O’Brien Trophy tattooed on his right biceps, as a motivation to winning the title.
Terry finished the series averaging 18 pts, giving the Mavs a much-needed spark of the bench. The Jet was a guest at Chris Broussard’s podcast “In the Zone“ and was asked about LeBron’s performance in 2011. James was guarding Terry throughout the series, and coach Rick Carlisle utilized Terry’s off-ball movement to tire the King out. The Mavericks put all of their focus on LeBron, adjusting their defensive schemes to make it hard for James to do his thing. The Mavs even ran a zone defense to narrow the lane and force LBJ to beat them by shooting outside jumpers.
“It was probably Game 5 when I noticed something was wrong with LeBron. It was a point in the 4th quarter, they called a timeout because we had just went on a run and LeBron had his back to the crowd, everybody else had walked to the bench but he was still out there and I kinda looked back and he had his chin in his chest and he was just shaking his head and taking deep breaths. That’s when I thought he was worn out, he had no more left, and it was because we had multiple defenders, we were picking him up full court, we weren’t letting him get to his isolation game, we were making him shoot jump shots. If he drove it and he had a clear path, we were wrapping him up. Give credit to DeShawn Stephenson, Shawn Marion and even Jason Kidd who were guarding him, and then we had a zone defense, thanks to Dwane Casey. Even LeBron gave him some love saying that he developed his outside game because of Casey’s defensive strategies in that series.“Jason Terry, via “In The Zone”
Physical fatigue resulted in mental struggles for LeBron. He lost his confidence and couldn’t adjust to different defensive sets the Mavs threw at him. At that time of his career, he was a below-average shooter and couldn’t shoot his way out of his slump. Instead, he thought he could facilitate the Heat to victory. Terry points out that the Heat knew that the Mavs weren’t going away and that they never really felt confident in that series, even going home for the last two games.
“It wasn’t just that he was physically worn out, but also mentally. I could see it in his eyes. We were up 1-0, even in game 2 we were up 10 in the last 3 minutes, and they came back and beat us. And then game 5 they had fought us as hard as they could, I hit the shot over him, and that was a defining moment in my career, just as you say that LeBron’s was a block against Golden State in 2016. I hit that shot to put us up 4 and propelled us to victory, and to see his reaction after that shot; he was like no they ain’t going away. And even though they were going home to play last 2 games because back than the playoffs format was 2-3-2, you would think mentally that they would be cool, but you could just see it, they weren’t cool, and they knew we were going to give them everything we had in game 6 because we didn’t want it to go to game 7.“Jason Terry, via “In The Zone”
After so many games of being nearly unstoppable by either aggressively driving the ball to the rim or shooting the ball with confidence from deep, LeBron was a completely different player in his final three games of the 2010-11 season. He was tentative, hesitant, and didn’t possess the look of a player that wanted to secure a title. For some people, James’s meltdown against Dallas will always be a black mark on his career and will stop them from putting LBJ higher on their all-time lists. What Terry said is that fantastic team performance by the Mavs caused LeBron’s struggles, not allowing LeBron to play to his strengths, and that is something that needs to be mentioned more when talking about the 2011 NBA finals series.