How Much Do LeBron's Free Throws Matter?

In the current issue of SLAM, a bunch of players, writers, and other basketball luminaries are asked to weigh in on the Bron/Kobe debate. Rick Telander has the most interesting answer: While acknowledging LeBron's earth-ending brilliance, he ended up going with Kobe because of the deadly clutch jumpers and spotlessness at the line. ↵
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↵Not that I'm accusing Telander of this line of thought, but it's a slippery slope from here to the nonsensical "LeBron choked" meme some have taken away from last night's game. Ignore for a second that LeBron has made numerous game-winning plays, and does his damage on the inside the same way Kobe slashes throats out at the perimeter. Empirically speaking, the man does not choke. However, if we start to imagine ways he could easily let his team down in the clutch, it would be at the line -- the way Shaq used to, the way Dwight Howard does. ↵
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↵Let's put it this way: If James ends up on the line, with seconds left, and misses a free throw that would tie the game, that's a choke. However, if he goes 6-10 over the course of a game in which he puts up 49 points, how relevant is his free-throw percentage, really?
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↵I know, a point is a point. But it's so freaking easy for LeBron to score, and get to the line, that if you're talking about overall production the impact is negligible. What could James have done better last night, other than make two extra free throws? Exactly. This is like calling out Abraham Lincoln for his posture at Gettysburg. ↵
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↵I'll concede to this: James could be a liability in the fourth. But he's also capable of putting up points in a way that makes it idiotic to keep the ball out of his hands. On most nights, he's as unstoppable in the lane as Shaq or Howard, but without needing anyone to set him up, or any questions of whether he can make adjustments. In the grand scheme of things, this free throw business just doesn't matter. And if there ever comes a game that LeBron indeed loses it at the line, is anyone really, seriously going to say that this means you can't count on him to manufacture late-game wins?
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↵For more NBA coverage, visit SportingNews.com's new NBA blog, The Baseline.↵

This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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