On Sunday night in game three of the NBA Finals, Jimmy Butler led the Heat to the 115-104 win, arguably having the greatest game of his career. Butler recorded a 40-point triple-double (40 points, 11 rebounds, and 13 assists). Only two other players in NBA history finished a finals game with a 40-point triple-double. These two players are Jerry West (1969) and Lebron James (2015).
Speaking of Lebron James, his stats in game three were exceptional, even if they were not enough to get a Lakers win. James finished with 25 points, 10 rebounds, and 8 assists. Perhaps, the most memorable of James’ stats came on his final play of the game.
The Heat had the ball with about 24 seconds left. They were up by eleven points. In most scenarios the Heat would simply hold the ball until the clock expired. That’s exactly what Butler and the Heat did.
However, once the game clock had about 12 seconds left, James along with three other Lakers players walked off the court. The Heat ran out their shot clock, and 0.7 seconds remained in the game. This meant that the Lakers would have to inbound the ball, but James and most of the other Lakers starters had already returned to the locker room.
The announcers and those watching were stunned. The referees waited expectantly as three Lakers from the bench removed their warmups quickly to inbound the ball for the last second.
The walk off created a buzz in the NBA community and on twitter. @Cernovich tweeted, “Floppin’ @KingJames walked off the court with time left on the clock – broken and defeated. He’ll never be Michael!”
@BarstoolTate tweeted, “LeBron James walking off the court with 1 second left and making a teammate sub in to inbound the ball is the definition of LeBron. What a sore loser.” These were just two of the many tweets chastising James for his game three actions.
Along with the remarkable stats, James recorded eight turnovers. He also had two travelling violations in the fourth quarter. He seemed visibly upset with the referees over the violations and some of their foul calls. These frustrations seem to be the major cause of his walk off.
In a press conference following the game, a reporter asked James if he walked off because he thought the game was over or because of frustration. To this James replied, “Both.”
James is correct in agreeing that the game was basically over, and one can’t blame James for feeling frustrated about the outcome. However, that doesn’t justify walking off the court before the game ends.
It’s easy for one to agree with Twitter’s stance on James’ actions. His walking off makes him seem like “a sore loser.” If his team would have been up by eleven, James would not have gone to the locker room before the final buzzer sounded. In game one and two of the finals, when the Heat lost, no Heat players walked off the court early. This makes James and his teammates’ actions in game three inexcusable.
In my opinion, the greatest player in NBA history not only should know how to win humbly but also how to lose civilly. James’ walk off in game three hurts his aspirations to be viewed as the greatest player in NBA history. And besides walk offs are meant for baseball. This is a basketball game we’re watching. Let’s not switch sports James, or you’ll really start to be compared to Michael Jordan.