Sports

ESPN First Take's Stephen A. Smith Says Something Dumb Again, this Time About LeBron James

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ESPN’s First Take is rife with so many errors, it would take a full-time day job just to track them all daily. But Stephen A. Smith said something particularly interesting this morning after Game 2 of the 2012 NBA Finals regarding LeBron James.

We have to analyze the mentality…LeBron James‘ achilles heal, has been, at its core, his free throw shooting, and his fearfulness when it comes to getting to the free throw line. It’s the one thing that has stymied his level of aggression as games have waned. That’s why he shoots the fallaway jumpshot…the problem is, he [used to lean] on his perimeter shooting because he didn’t want to go to the free throw line.

Again, we have another classic example of a normally functioning brain getting lost in a large sea of data. Stephen A. did what Skip Bayless does nearly every sentence: he trusted his memory and instincts in a situation where they are quite untrustworthy. That he then made sweeping psychological conclusions about someone based on his own, conjured up, faulty data is particularly egregious.

Regular readers of this blog know that LeBron James was the King of Clutch in the NBA for years in Cleveland. Part of that dominance was an ability to get to the free throw line. From 2008-2011, of the qualifying players from 82games.com, James gets to the free throw line in the clutch more than anyone in the NBA, taking 0.45 free throws per minute in the final five minutes of 5-point games. (Dwyane Wade was second in the league at a distant 0.35 FTA’s per minute.)

James not only went to the line, but in his 257 “clutch” attempts there he shot 81.7%, a sizable increase from the 74.8% number he posted in non-clutch situations. Stephen A’s premise really couldn’t be more wrong.

Let’s try and cut him some slack here though. Perhaps Smith was just referring to the very end of close games, or simply playoff games. Here’s how LeBron has done in the final minute of 5-point games over the last five years from the free throw stripe...

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