Stephen A. Smith Criticizes LeBron James for Offering 'Unconvincing' Excuses

Exploring the pivotal moments of the 2011 NBA Finals

by Nouman Rasool
Stephen A. Smith Criticizes LeBron James for Offering 'Unconvincing' Excuses
© Patrick Smith/Getty Images

In a revealing moment of introspection and candor, LeBron James delves into the toughest chapter of his illustrious NBA journey during the April 3 airing of his "Mind the Game" podcast, co-hosted with JJ Redick. The four-time NBA champion didn't mince words about his performance in the 2011 NBA Finals, a series that saw his Miami Heat fall to the Dallas Mavericks.

"I played like [expletive]. I told myself the way I played [was] unacceptable," James confessed, referencing his uncharacteristic average of less than 18 points over the six-game series. Further exploring the dynamics of the Heat's defeat, James pointed to the construction of the team's roster as a contributing factor.

Despite forming a "Super Team" with stars Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, James highlighted the challenge of surrounding the core with capable role players under the constraints of the salary cap. "We didn't have enough complimentary guys to make it all work," he reflected, despite the team's success in reaching the Finals.

This narrative, however, met with criticism from ESPN's Stephen A. Smith. On the April 4 episode of "The Stephen A. Smith Show," Smith vehemently disputed James' assessment, suggesting a revisionist take on the 2011 Finals. Smith, known for his forthright analysis, scrutinized James' individual performance rather than the team's roster composition.

"That is some straight," Smith asserted, emphasizing the presence of valuable contributors like Mario Chalmers, Udonis Haslem, and others who alongside the All-Star trio, contributed significantly throughout the season.

James' Crucial Shortcomings

Smith underscored that despite roster debates, the crux of Miami's loss lay in James' below-par performance, particularly noting his scoring droughts during critical moments in the Finals.

"You didn’t lose because of the roster. You lost because of you," Smith argued, pinpointing the pivotal role James' performance played in the Heat's inability to clinch the title despite leading the series. Despite this setback, James' career trajectory post-2011 is a testament to his resilience and growth.

Bouncing back, James secured NBA championships in 2012 and 2013 with Miami, and later with Cleveland in 2016 and Los Angeles in 2020. Reflecting on his journey, James views the 2011 Finals not as a mere loss but as a transformative experience that steeled him for future challenges.

Speaking on HBO's "The Shop" in 2018, he considered the defeat his "greatest achievement" for the introspection and motivation it sparked, vowing never to let such a failure define his career again. This narrative not only showcases James' evolution as a player but also highlights the intricate dynamics of team sports where individual and collective challenges intersect, shaping the legacy of one of basketball's most influential figures.

Stephen A. Smith Lebron James Nba Finals