LeBron James Choking? Numbers Say Yes, Miami Heat Star Says No

Miami Heat forward says the numbers don't necessarily tell the whole story.

ByABC News
June 12, 2011, 1:44 PM

June 12, 2011— -- If you read the box score, you could get the idea that Miami Heat forward Lebron James is choking in the NBA Finals, but who are you going to believe, the numbers or the superstar?

The numbers are pretty damning: Worse than the fact that he is shooting just 25 percent in the fourth quarter for the series, he has scored a total of just 11 points in the final periods of the first five games against the Dallas Mavericks.

Critics eager to slam James after his nationally broadcast "decision" to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers and join fellow superstar Dwayne Wade in Miami have pounced on those numbers to blame James for the Heat falling behind three games to two in the seven-game series.

But James himself says the numbers don't necessarily tell the whole story.

Basketball is a team game, and he has been contributing on defense, rebounding and getting the ball to his teammates so they can score, he says.

The numbers there back him up: In the series against the Mavericks, James is averaging 7.8 rebounds and 7.0 assists per game.

In the Heat's loss on Thursday, James may have scored just 17 points -- nearly 10 points below his season average -- but he grabbed 10 rebounds and dished out 10 assists.

"I had a bad game in a lot of people's eyes," James said. "I understand that."

When James joined his best friend Wade and fellow all-star free agent Chris Bosch in Miami, many people said the Heat looked like a lock to win the NBA championship.

"I'm going to do everything in my power to lead that Miami franchise to a second [championship]," James said last summer.

Despite all the hoopla, it took a while for the team to gel, but in the playoffs, the Heat got hot, advancing to finals by taking out the Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls.

But with the title now on the line against Dallas, suddenly "King James" has looked more like a pretender to the throne.

In Miami's 86-83 loss on Tuesday, James scored a career-playoff low 8 points, and worse, he often looks disengaged on the court.

In the final quarter, with the game on the line, the man many consider one of the greatest basketball players ever, has wilted.

"He is only shooting 25 percent from the field during the fourth quarter," former NBA player and Golden State Warriers general manager Chris Mullin said. "He needs to get his efficiency up."

"He is a two time MVP, he made a decision to join the Miami Heat this season and now media wants to know what is going on if that championship doesn't take place right now," former NBA player and ABC analyst Bruce Bowen said.

James has denied that the long minutes he's been playing in the postseason are taking a toll on him.

"I wouldn't say it's too much. I don't think so," James said, when asked about playying 44 minutes a game. "I don't feel like I'm hurting my team for the time I'm out there. I don't feel like it's too much."

He also said that he's not feeling any more pressure because the Heat is in the finals.

"I think the game of basketball can be pressure," James said. "It doesn't matter if it's the finals or the conference finals or first round. Playoff basketball is all about pressure, how you can handle it."

But how he is handling it is just what is being questioned. Fair or not, James will likely take the blame if the Heat don't win the championship that has eluded him his entire career.

ABC News' Ron Claiborne and The Associated Press contributed to this report.