LeBron’s lack of help in 2013 rivals lack of help in 2007

Big 3

Jordan had Pippen, Kobe had Shaq,1 and hell even Skywalker had Solo.

No matter how amazing or perfect someone may be, everyone needs help.

LeBron was chastised for heading down to South Beach to team up with an NBA Finals MVP and a reptilion all-star. He was branded scared, afraid, and a coward for running from the challenge he and his Cavalier teammates faced in the Celtics’ Big Three and heading to the land built by cocaine and murder to form his own trio.

“He didn’t want the pressure of being the guy”, we all said.

“He’ll never be Jordan. This clearly takes him out of the conversation. He can win as much as he wants to. There would have been something honorable about staying in Cleveland and trying to win it as the man.” Chimed in Charles Barkley on 790 The Ticket in Miami after “The Decision”.

At the time I couldn’t have agreed more. With a nasty taste in my mouth I searched high and low for quotes like this to wash it out. We all wondered who would be the alpha dog on this Heat team? Who would take the last shot? Who would ride shotgun when the crew of “best friends” headed to Chipotle after practice? It’s Wade’s team, LeBron doesn’t want to be the guy we concluded.Two years later and it seems like a joke we questioned this in the first place. Whether you never liked him to begin with, you’re still spurned by “The Decision”, or you’ve made inner peace with him, there is no denying the LeBron is “the guy” in Miami and the greatest basketball player on the planet.

The end of Barkley’s quote is dead on, it would have been honorable for LeBron to stay in Cleveland. However, three years later the rest of what the Chuckster had to say seems foolish. LeBron is unquestionably “the man” in Miami these days thanks to both his own merits as well as the lack of contribution from Bosh and Wade.

As for Michael doing it as the man, well of course he was the man, but it wasn’t MJ vs. the world night in and night out. Do we forget that he had Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman on some of those teams? What about the greatest perimeter defender in NBA history on his team in Hall of Famer Scotty Pippen? Yet we’re supposed to believe MJ didn’t have help. The year after Jordan began serving his gambling suspension…I mean retired to play baseball…the same Bulls team won 55 games led by Pippen.

Everyone needs help from time to time, there’s no shame in that. The problem for LeBron has been that he has rarely received that help. All throughout the playoffs we’ve heard the announcers say the Heat are starting to look like the LeBron Cavaliers where everyone stands around and watches LeBron try and play 5 on 1. As great as it is hearing Cleveland mentioned during playoff basketball, the constant reminder of how the team was nothing but LeBron all those years is getting old.

Last year when Miami and LeBron did win a title, they received contributions from not just LeBron, but got big play from Wade and Bosh. All three had Player Efficiency Ratings of over 19. For comparison’s sake 15 is considered average and 30 is extraordinary. For the 2012 title run LeBron was over 30 which tops Jordan’s career player PER of 28.59. LeBron was a machine, but it wasn’t all him.

Fast forward to 2013 Eastern Conference Finals where all anyone (including LeBron) could talk about was how LeBron wasn’t getting any help this time around. But just how bad was his supporting cast?

Looking at the playoff PER’s of the 2012 Heat vs. the 2013 Heat the drop off in LeBron’s supporting cast is obvious to see.

Playoff Player Efficiency Rating
LeBron James30.328.7
Dwyane Wade2217.4
Chris Bosh19.715.9


While LeBron’s play has tapered off  a little from the 2012 playoffs to this year, Wade and Bosh each have had significant drops. In fact if you look at the PER’s of the Heat trio compared to the Cavs’ “Big 3” in the ’07 playoffs you see that LeBron was better in ’13 but Wade and Bosh were outshined by Gibson and Ilgauskas in ’07.


Playoff Player Efficiency Rating
LeBron James28.723.9LeBron James
Dwyane Wade17.418Zydrunas Ilgauskas
Chris Bosh15.916.8Daniel Gibson


For those who feel they may have jumped the gun on purchasing their Boobie Gibson inspired t’s back ’07, take solace in the fact that the Cavs’ “shooting guard” in 2007 had a better playoffs than D-Whistle is having in 2013. Bosh and Z provide similar skill sets offensively with their ability to stretch the floor, creating space for LeBron to operate. And while the ’07 playoffs weren’t exactly Z’s best stretch of basketball games, he was able to give 2007 LeBron more help than Bosh has during their current run to the finals.

The biggest difference in Cleveland’s “big 3” in 2007 vs. Miami’s in 2013 is the performance of the one constant of the two groups, Mr. James himself. Back in 2007 expectations were still tame for LeBron and the Cavs so when he scored 25 straight against the rival Pistons it was the greatest thing any of us had ever seen.2 While not as extreme, LeBron put on a similar performance of Game 5 on this year’s Eastern Conference Finals. A third quarter that began with a profanity laced speech to his teammates ended with everyone’s jaws hanging on the floor. Once again LeBron had put his team on his back in a pivotal game 5 to secure the win, but even LeBron can’t sustain that level of play forever. Eventually everyone needs help.

In game one of The Finals we saw the Spurs make it clear LeBron James was not going to beat them. They deployed a sort of box and one zone for most of the game, forcing the rest of the Heat to step up and make the big play. With the game on the line, San Antonio baited Bosh into taking a three that would clang off back iron, and moments later when Dwyane Wade had a chance to keep the game going in the final seconds, Wade blew the layup.

The Spurs deployed the same strategy in 2007, do everything you can to make sure LeBron doesn’t beat you and take your chances with his teammates. We saw how it worked out for LBJ the first go round, and if Wade, Bosh, or someone else doesn’t step up then the King is looking at a familiar fate in 2013.

  1. Or Gasol []
  2. I’ll never forget being at the Q that night. I frequented Cavs’ playoff games all throughout the LeBron era and the loudest crowd I ever experienced was that watch party crowd for game 5 vs. Detroit. The whole arena participated in our very own Animal House moment to “Shout” after regulation is a memory I’ll never forget. []

  • MrCleaveland

    There’s trouble in paradise? Mrs. Wade is mad at Mr. Wade for not helping out around the house? Awwwww, what a shame. They were such a nice couple.

  • JNeids

    While I fully admit to the personal bias that adds to this, I always considered Wade somewhat overrated. If it wasn’t for Shaq and garbage officiating, he wouldn’t have a title. I don’t deny he is a great player, but his BS drama and selfishness always overshadowed it in my mind. I’d like to think somewhere in Germany Dirk is faking a limp in front of friends and getting laughs for it.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I’ve gotten over being jilted by LeBron I was always a fan of his incredible physical basketball skillset from such an early age and he’s only gotten better. Unfortunately for Cleveland we got to also witness his incredible mental immaturity. It’s part of growing up. Don’t get me wrong I don’t consider his leaving a mentally immature move I’m speaking of the playoff meltdown against the mighty Celtics which proceeded his decision. Again, it’s part of growing up but terrible unfortunate circumstance in the way of timing for Cleveland.

    As far as the comparison between 2007 and 2013 for me 2007 was LeBron trying to carry a team on his back with literally little help whether is was players or coaching. In 2013 it’s LeBron trying to carry a team with a pair of All-Stars in Wade and Bosh who seem to have checked out for whatever reasons. Wade looks like LeBron did in the series verse Boston. Injury or no injury. Bosh just looks lost.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Who is who? I hope whichever one LeBron is returns home and hey if Gabrielle Union kinda Wade wants to come to I’ll gladly pick her up at the airport! 😉

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I was never a Wade fan myself clearly LeBron can carry a team I don’t think Wade can or ever could. As far as Dirk goes, he’s German man, even if he had a limp you’d never Nowitziki!!!

  • Tom T.

    The 2007 Cavs had great coaching. They made the finals because they defended their rears off that year, especially in the playoffs, with a bunch of players who were never considered good defenders before then.

  • Harv 21

    I see the point you’re trying to make, Ryan, but question the methodology. How were Z and one-game-wonder Boobie the other parts of a “Big 3” in ’07? The team was waiting more on contributions from Larry Hughes and Drew Gooden than Z, and Boobie was considered a project. Guessing Lebron likes his chances a lot more with a beat-up Wade, uber-talented but tentative Bosh and that bench than the weird collection we had here in ’07.

    The most crucial aspect so far this series is that the old Spurs swept their conference finals, had more than a week to rest, and now have had another 3 days between games 1 and 2. Even when Miami wins their must-game tonight, if the Spurs can force LeBron and Wade to expend max energy and keep avoiding turnovers/fast breaks they can force the Heat to play perfect half court offense and grind out wins like Game 1. Wade’s as competitive as they come – the question is what he has left as the Spurs tighten the vise.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Guess that’s why they rehired the guy then probably.

  • MrCleaveland

    LeBron is Mrs. Wade. He couldn’t win on his own, so he ran off and married someone who could.

  • Wow

    Another trip to the Finals doesn’t compare to that Cavs team. That team had Eric Snow starting if I remember correctly. I will say Bosh is a wuss. He is 6’11 and wants no part of the post. If anyone needs to step it up, I would say it’s him.

  • Steve

    I’m a fan of PER, but this is just flat out the wrong way to use it, and you don’t have to look any further than usage rate to understand why. Gibson’s USG% was 7th for his team in those playoffs. Wade’s is third (though second is Rashard Lewis’ pretty much garbage time minutes). Wade still has a higher PER with a USG% that is 40% higher. Gibson sat in the corner while Lebron got him open 3’s, Wade is still initiating parts of the offense. The difference is enormous.

    Lebron is putting this Heat team on his back and carrying them, almost like 2007, but the comparison of the supporting cast is ludicrous, and just more nonsense that shows that we still can’t get over Lebron.

  • mgbode

    it’s been demonstrated here that PER actually can rise because of usage rate and it is one of the flaws.

    that being said, I agree that Wade is doing more for the offense than Gibson did as far as helping initiate. however, this Heat team could really use someone who can sit behind the 3pt line and drill 3pters (last year Battier did it…this year it was supposed to be Ray Allen, but if they don’t find someone, then they will lose. LeBron’s drives create so much traffic that someone HAS to be able to hit the open 3pters).

    Gibson isn’t as good as even this version of Wade.
    Z isn’t as good as even this version of Bosh.
    et cetera.

    However, basketball is still a team game and having pieces that fit well in a system is important. when Miami was running through their streak, they were hitting outside shots and Wade was crashing the backside cuts. Right now, they are not and it makes the parts imperfect.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Oh well I’ll gladly take Mrs. Wade back because I don’t think the Cavaliers will be able to win without her/him!

  • MrCleaveland

    What do you mean “we,” Kemo Sabe?

  • Dave

    My real theory on why LeBron left northeast Ohio: It helped him get away from the huge number of people who were hovering around him in hopes of a cash payoff. It wouldn’t surprise me if he had everyone he knew in high school trying to buddy up to him as a potential ticket to wealth. And in that mess, I wouldn’t be surprised if leaving made him much more able to concentrate on basketball.

    It also means it had nothing to do with the quality of the Cavs teams when he was playing. The Mo-Delonte-LeBron-Big Ben-Z team was one of the best I’ve ever seen, and it wasn’t just because LeBron is a ridiculously good player: Mo, Delonte, and Z were effective outside threats, Delonte and Ben and Z were effective defenders, and LeBron was starting to figure out what he could do.

  • Jaker

    You just had to write this right before game 2.

    Heat in 5 thanks to Whammy McGee

  • mgbode

    isn’t game2 classic Heat? they disappear for a game (whether they win or lose), then they fiddle around for another game before going on a barrage to make the score be a blowout.

    beating them requires a team to win all of those games that they disappear. SA is 1/1 on those so far and gets to go home for 3 straight. Win 2 of those and they are in good shape IMO.

  • Steve

    I don’t think that’s right, or at least the right way to put it, about usage rate causing PER to rise. Sure, if your shot-chucking can outperform the “replacement-level” baseline in PER, then your PER can rise, but that shouldn’t be considered a flaw. They are measuring two separate things and still doing so accurately.

    Either way, taking just PER, and nothing else, and trying to draw a definitive conclusion is what gives those “autistic stat mavens” a bad name.

  • Jaker

    Yea I agree. I really hate the format of he NBA Finals. While the rest of the playoffs is 2-2-1-1-1, the Finals goes 2-3-2. The excuse used to be the excessive travel between LA and Boston, but given the amount of days off between each game(and that the team out of the “west” has been in Texas orOklahoma the last three years) there’s really no reason to keep the 2-3-2

  • mgbode

    and we came pretty close to having a Memphis v. Indiana Finals. it would have been funny for Stern to explain that “travel distance” was a reasoning for 2-3-2 there.

    I really hate the Finals format, but I don’t think it’s changing anytime soon.

  • mgbode