Shanoff's WUC: Choke Defines LeBron's Career

Today's Calls: LeBron vs. Oblivion, the Cavs vs. the Summer of 2010, Celtics vs. Magic, Flyers vs. History, Justin Verlander vs. CC Sabathia, Zack Greinke vs. Trey Hillman, Mat Latos vs. Ryan Zimmerman, Boise State vs. Ole Miss, Super Saver vs. the Preakness field and More. ↵

↵The Opening Pitch: Yikes, that's going to leave a mark. ↵

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↵Last night's loss -- the embarrassing conclusion to the Cavs' humiliating ouster from the NBA Playoffs -- is the defining moment of LeBron's career so far. ↵

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↵Hold on: That is not to say LeBron isn't a brilliant player and hasn't had the single-greatest 7-year start to a career of any player in NBA history. And that is not to say he can't eventually win a title and create a new defining moment. ↵

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↵But for now -- today -- LeBron leads the ranks of Ewing, Barkley, Malone and Stockton: Playoff failure. The NBA is not baseball; it isn't about individual career milestones -- it is about defining individual moments. It is about championships. ↵

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↵Part of LeBron's defining moment is losing at all. Whether he was bounced in 6 or 7, in the conference semis or the NBA Finals, in blowouts or at the buzzer, the expectation for LeBron this season was "championship or bust." Well ... ↵

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↵But part of it is the way he went out: Like a punk. Three straight losses. A near-sweep. A collapse. Individually iffy. Game 5 wasn't even close. Game 6 didn't feel close, either. ↵

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↵The lasting stat: Not LeBron's triple-double, but his 9 turnovers. The lasting image: The way the Cavs helplessly stood there as the final minute wound down, not even attempting to foul to try to create a miracle ending. ↵

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↵Once unimaginable, there is a legitimate question whether LeBron and the Cavs quit on this series. ↵

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↵At least at the final buzzer, LeBron shook hands and offered hugs to the Celtics. He looked either shell-shocked or indifferent, depending on your feelings about LeBron. ↵

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↵He had a fair reaction for someone whose career just hit a defining new low. ↵

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↵What next for LeBron? Six weeks of "will-he-stay-or-go?" ↵

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↵The conventional wisdom is that if he can't get out of the playoffs' 2nd round with a regular-season champ, he has maxed out in Cleveland and might as well try to start over elsewhere, perhaps somewhere more high profile. Call that the "Shaq model." ↵

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↵Or he could stick around and try to get that elusive championship where he is. Call that the "Kobe model." LeBron reminds me more of Shaq than Kobe. ↵

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↵I think he bolts. ↵

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↵For where? Probably New York, but he won't be any closer to a title in NYC than he was in Cleveland. If he wants to win a title -- soon -- he should go to Miami and join Dwyane Wade. ↵

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↵NBA Playoff Mania: East Finals. In my pre-playoff picks, I had the Magic beating the Cavs -- I have no trouble rolling that prediction over and picking the Magic over the Celtics. Last year, Orlando beat Boston in 7; this year, it wouldn't surprise me to see Orlando sweep Boston outright. The C's are going to find out the Magic are a much tougher playoff matchup than the Cavs. ↵

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↵(Somehow, despite not playing since earlier this week, the Suns and Lakers won't tip until Monday. More on that matchup next week.) ↵

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↵NHL Playoffs: Game 7s in the NHL Playoffs are already intense. That the Flyers are looking to become only the 3rd team in hockey history to complete a series comeback from being down 3-0 makes it all the more must-see. ↵

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↵MLB Talking Points: ↵

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↵• Hmm: Verlander > Sabathia. ↵

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↵• Finally: 1st W for Greinke. ↵

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↵• Walk-Off Watch: Wild pitch FTW! ↵

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↵• Ace: Mat Latos (CG 1-hitter.) ↵

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↵• Fantasy Stud: Ryan Zimmerman (2 HR, 6 RBI.) ↵

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↵• Weekend's Best: Twins-Yankees ↵

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↵Coaching Carousel: Royals fire Trey Hillman. This was a "when-not-if" situation. Is there even a hot young manager out there who would want to run this KC team? ↵

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↵(On the hoops side, I just can't buy this scenario of John Calipari leaving his instant empire at Kentucky for the Bulls, even if Chicago offers to package Cal with LeBron, complete with William Wesley popping out of a birthday cake to seal the deal.) ↵

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↵NFL Offseason: Pay Darrelle Revis whatever he wants. ↵

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↵CFB Offseason: Boise State has found a willing BCS-level opponent in 2011 -- Ole Miss, which will host the defending national champ* Broncos (and pay $900K for the privilege of losing to them on national TV, just like Oregon). ↵(* - At least, that's my preseason pick.) ↵

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↵Marketing: The Heat's website to keep Dwyane Wade is more about showing the fans they're doing everything possible to keep Wade than -- y'know -- actually keeping Wade. (LeBron and Wade should team up in a neutral location, like New Jersey.) ↵

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↵Preakness Pick: Things went so well for me with Super Saver at the Kentucky Derby, why would I stop riding that horse now? Super Saver is the pick in Baltimore. ↵

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↵The Last Word: "I'm going to approach this summer with the right mindset." -- LeBron, cryptic til the end. ↵

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↵Dan Shanoff writes The Wake-Up Call every weekday morning for SportingNews.com and blogs daily at DanShanoff.com. Got any comments, questions or feedback? Email Dan at shanofftsn-[at]-gmail-[dot]-com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/danshanoff. ↵

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

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