Miami Heat forward LeBron James reacts to being called for a foul during Wednesday’s loss to the Indiana Pacers in Indianapolis.
Miami Heat forward LeBron James reacts to being called for a foul during Wednesday's loss to the Indiana Pacers in Indianapolis.

There's an episode of the television series "South Park" from 2002 titled "Simpsons Already Did It."

The plot is fairly simple: A character named Butters comes up with several zany ideas, only to be informed by one of his friends that "The Simpson" -- considered by many to be the benchmark of animated television -- has already done whatever the planned concept was. It drives Butters mad throughout the episode, until it's pointed out that "The Simpsons" has been airing on television forever and has done everything, even rehashing things that were done before that program started.

It's a simple message; the past repeats, but comparisons between similar products, people and ideas will always come up.

It's the plight of LeBron James, especially after his disappointing showing in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals Wednesday night. He'll forever be compared to Michael Jordan -- the man considered by many to be the standard of great modern basketball stars.

Hoop heads will argue that Jordan never had a seven-point night in a game when his Bulls had the chance to close out an opponent in the playoffs; that win or lose, Jordan always came to play and had the desire to be the best. Even before he won any of his six NBA championships, Jordan wanted to shine as the best player on the court.

In the past, James has been criticized by detractors for disappearing in big games, deferring to teammates rather than stepping up in the moments that matter.


While he seemed to have stepped away from those accusations over the past couple of seasons, King James again shied away from the spotlight Wednesday night.

Late in the game, with his Miami Heat trailing the Indiana Pacers by two, James drove through the lane and was mere feet from the hoop and tying the game with an easy bucket when he kicked the ball out to Chris Bosh, who launched a 3-pointer that rimmed out.

The Pacers collected the rebound and David West hit one of two free throws -- intentionally missing the last attempt with one second remaining -- to seal a 93-90 victory and force a Game 6 in Miami Friday night.

Would any on this be an issue had Bosh drained the shot? Probably not, but it's unfair to blame him for missing a contested 22-footer when James passed up a six-foot shot that would have given his team a shot to force overtime.

Those who argue that Jordan wouldn't have backed off from a shot like that are probably right and will likely be labeled "LeBron haters" by those who think the latter can do no wrong. It's the 21st-century equivalent of the childhood taunt "I know you are, but what I am" -- a rebuttal from someone who has no good or response of their position. But all the great playoff performers lived for moments like that; insert Kobe Bryant, Reggie Miller, Isaiah Thomas or Larry Bird into that spot and any one of them is hoisting up an attempt with the game on the line.

In the long run, does one poor playoff performance disqualify LeBron James from being considered an all-time great? No, of course not. He's a remarkably skilled and gifted player who will be remembered as one of the best of his time and possibly of any era.

But let's not put him in the discussion for greatest of all-time just yet. James needs to show that he's willing to accept both the glory and the criticism that come with being THE man before that can happen.

After all, Jordan -- and all the other hardwood greats -- have already done that.

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