Shoot or Pass?

Before I start it should be noted that I’m a huge Heat fan and have been since I turned to basketball. So, early Saturday morning I sat up to watch the Jazz game. I knew it would be a close one given Utah’s front court depth and the fact that Bosh was away from the team (due to a death in the family). I also vividly remember last season’s game were Paul Milsap uncharacteristically buried us from deep (not my favourite memory).

Anyone who follows the NBA will know the outcome of the game at the weekend. The Heat picked up a tough loss despite a stellar game by LeBron James (35 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists 3 blocks, 0 turnovers). The talk after the game wasn’t focused around the end of the Heat’s win streak of 9 games at the time; it wasn’t the fact that Dwyane Wade missed a free throw late in the game and fouled Devin Harris twice in the act of shooting; and, it definitely wasn’t about Lebron’s great performance, which helped bring the Heat back from a 15-point defecit. No – the talk was all about the last 4.5 seconds of the game: Heat down by one. Ball on the sideline. Here’s what happened…

Personally, I thought it was the right basketball play. Superstars are paid to win games- Yes, but I don’t necessarily believe that they have to shoot the ball in order to do so. LeBron’s a different beast than Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant (who would’ve shot the ball no doubt) , he gets people involved and he trusts his teammates. I’ve seen Udonis Haslem knock down that shot consistently. In fact, I’d even go as far as to say it’s his shot. But, it seems the basketball world don’t share my perspective. Matt Harpring, who was calling the game, said what everyone else was thinking, “He passed it again!”. Haslem had only 4 points up until that point and LeBron had made 8 of his 9 attempts in the quarter including two huge three-pointers…. but I stand by his decision. I’d like to think I would’ve taken the same option (not that it matters).

“He passed it again!”

But he is LeBron James: the best basketball player in the world, by popular opinion. And, because he is what he is, he is signed up to be scrutinised on his every move. Despite everything that LeBron gives on court, people want more. It isn’t enough that LeBron posted that ridiculous statline or put the Heat on his back and made it a game. In order to avoid the scrutiny he has to shoot and make that shot, or better still, win a title. NBA/TNT Insider David Aldridge (@daldridgetnt) tweeted it best:

“It was the right play. But that doesn’t matter. It will never matter until he wins a title. That’s what LeBron has put on himself.”


The Courtside Collective wants to know your thoughts.

Was it the right play? Should LeBron shoot in the clutch, regardless of the circumstances?


Getting tired of the standing all the waiting around on the football pitch, Daryl turned to basketball around the age of 15 and hasn't looked back since. A former student of St. Columb's College, he later moved on to the University of Ulster (Magee) while he also played basketball in the NAIA in the U.S. during his time as an exchange student at King College, Tennessee. He has remained faithful to his local club, North Star, throughout his time playing basketball in Northern Ireland and has coached and refereed in both the Senior and Junior leagues. Daryl is currently living and working in China.


  1. Paddy McG

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    AMEN! To carry the title as “the best basketball player on the planet,” as he is commonly referred as, the responsibility he carries is huge. The failure of his team lies on his shoulders especially in moments like that. It was the right basketball play and I honestly think that, even though this was a loss, the long term implications of this decision far outweigh the short term. He shows that he is willing to find his team mates and trust them to help him win the game. When the heat play a defensive specialist team e.g. the Bulls, they are likely to force him into a situation where he has to throw up a horrible shot because they will smother him. Should he still shoot it because Kobe would? No. Udonis Haslem will hit that shot if given the same opportunity down the line. I praise LeBron. For what may seem like a cowardly move is actually a true demonstration of leadership.

  2. Niall McDermott

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    The “best player in the world” who is on FIRE passing to UD for a game winning shot? Epic Fail!

  3. Peter McCready

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    Disagree Daryl, if that was two players of equal status and ability it would’ve been the right basketball play. But it wasn’t. Granted this wouldn’t have mattered if Haslem had hit the jumper but he didn’t, and the best basketball play would’ve been the one that give his team the best chance of winning. So if that’s the best basketball player on the planet, taking it himself when he’s hot, then that’s the right play as opposed to giving it up to a utility player who’s got 4 points for the game. It’s not a question of being over scrutinised or unfairly treated, its a matter of playing your role, and LeBron failed (again) to step up for his team when it really mattered

  4. Paul Dick

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    It was defiently the right play, even if your the best player and your hot a bad shots a bad shot why not give an open shot to a player whos paid millions of dollars to hit that exact shot. Look at Robert Horry orthe white guy that Jordan passed the ball off to…i forget his name….superstars throwin up shite shots is nothing but glory hunting, he wants to win. I defiently would have shot it myself tho!

  5. Paddy McG

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    Haha paul I know you would have. Udonis Haslem is an undersized big who is paid millions to be a consistent 15 foot jump shooter. It was the better option and the more likely option to go in. Too many time have I seen superstars be forced into taking HORRIBLE shots in the closing seconds when players are standing wide open. It’s called basketball IQ and I am sorry Niall and Peter but you guys are wrong lol

  6. JoshR

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    If he would have shot it people would be compaining he shot over a double team!
    Everyone always hates superstars…
    No coach wants his player to shoot over a double team, a double team leaves someone open, he saw the player open and gave him the ball as he is wide open… He just didn’t hit the shot, if he would have scored it, it would have been an amazing pass… Not LeBron’s fault he missed!

  7. Peter McCready

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    I sense I’m fighting a losing battle here but…

    First of all, UD isn’t paid to hit jumpers, he’s paid (less than a quarter what LeBron is paid incidentally) to defend and rebound. Mario Chalmers, James Jones, Mike Miller, Norris Cole, Shane Battier – those guys are paid (in varying degrees) to hit jumpers.

    It’s no coincidence that Utah doubled off Haslem – they wanted him to take the shot. Think about that, LeBron gave the Jazz the shot the Jazz wanted the Heat to take. I give the Jazz some credit for doubling off him, but not too much because it wasn’t even a hard show, the double man hadn’t even got to LeBron. It was the kind of double show that LeBron sees on multiple occasions every night and leaves in his wake as he gets to the ring before the defence has a chance to react.

    There’s nothing there to suggest either that he wouldn’t have got a good shot as opposed to a hail mary over a double team. He was 8 for 9 in the quarter against a defence that clearly couldn’t handle him. So even playing the percentages against UD’s ability to hit that shot, LeBron could’ve got himself a better shot.

    There’s few things I had more in basketball than selfish play, and I’m not advocating that. I’m also not going to say that he bottled it. But LeBron didn’t play his role on that play – something he’s failed to do late in games a number of times. When he’s as hot as he is, against a defence that can’t handle him, he has to give his team the best chance of winning, and I would have him make a play for himself – or a better offensive teammate than Haslem. Otherwise, he’s giving the Jazz the shot they want, and making the wrong play.

    In my honest opinion!

  8. Niall McDermott

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    Pete you are spot on, I was gonna do a full post in response to this nonsense by Harkin but your hitting all my key points here!

  9. Paul Dick

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    I disagree because hes fulfilling his role by making them double team, as a superstar he has to cause impossible matchups which he did the fact thatUD was wide open means lebrons doin what he has to…create a good play….UD is consistent from that range aswell.

  10. Paddy McG

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    My point reiterated by Paul “UD is consistent from that range aswell.” Best option. Full stop. And I will also re-emphasize the effect it has on his team in terms of him showing trust in them.

  11. Peter McCready

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    UD is actually shooting 41% from the field for the season. So when you factor in the number of dunks and points in the paint he gets – which is sizeable portion of his points – he’s actually not shooting well at all. So the evidence doesn’t back your up lads!

  12. Puff S.

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    First off, UD gets like no lay ups and dunks. He might get an occasional putback or bunny layup, but a majority of his points come from little spot up jumpers, either off dribble penetration or off the pick and pop. That’s probably why his field goal percentage is only 41%. Secondly, NBA scouts and coaches are some of the best in the business. Don’t you think Coach Spo realized that they’d probably double Lebron? Isn’t that why he called for the pick and roll. Don’t you think he purposely put UD in one of his sweet spots so that if Lebron couldn’t make a play himself, he’d have a perfect outlet for a perfect shot? I think he did think that far ahead. He’s paid to think that far ahead. It’s too bad it wasn’t Bosh there because if he missed the shot, we’d be hearing more and more about how he’s not tough and he’s not clutch (both also stupid to me). Point is, Lebron made a basketball play. Very simple. It’s easy to sit back and say “He passed it again.” Matt Harpring, shut your a** up! You were the exact type player that UD is, and Lebron would have trusted you, too, to hit that shot. If Harpring was the recipient of that pass, would he have held his head down and gone to the locker room saying, “Damn, Lebron shouldn’t have passed that to me. It’s his job to hit the game-winning shot because he gets paid three times what I get paid”? Hell no…so it’s silly for him to say that as a commentator.

    I’ve gone through stages with Lebron. At first I loved him because he handled the hype that surrounded him when he came into the NBA so easily. He single-handedly turned the Cavs’ franchise around. And he seemed like a humble kid. Then he started “feeling himself” too much in my opinion. He started talking in third person, and comparing himself to the greats of the past, and basically just acting as any young, 20-something kid who gets too much too fast would act (bar D Rose and KD, who I hope don’t fall into that same Lebron trap of letting their success make them feel more important than the game itself). But since that crazy “Decision ” stunt, Lebron has done nothing but quietly become a more efficient, dominant player. A player that dominated that whole fourth quarter while hitting some ignorant ass shots to get his team back in the game. And when everyone was waiting for the next crazy shot to fall, what does he do? He passes to a wide open teammate to let all of us know that “Yes, I’m a super-duper star, but yes, I still think team first.”

    I don’t understand how us, as basketball fans…especially us who have played our whole life and who I’m sure have been taught to “play every possession” can blame Lebron IN ANY WAY for this loss because of this one play. I think it’s a bit silly. What if Lebron had made that play and UD had missed the shot with 8:02 left in the 3rd quarter? That possession still matters. What about all the free throws Miami missed in that game? Those possessions mattered. What about Chalmers’ missed layup in the second quarter? That mattered, too. It’s a game of mistakes. A game of missed shots. A game of “what ifs”. Shit, I probably would have shot it, too…not because I didn’t trust my teammate or because I had the hot hand, but more so because I would have wanted the burden to be on me rather than a teammate if he or I missed that shot. And maybe Lebron does run away from that burden in closing situations sometimes…. And I mean, with as much burden as he has anyway, I can definitely see why. But I just feel like this whole discussion is unnecessary. He made a play. It didn’t work out…that’s all we can say about it. If he shot it and missed, we’d say…he made a play, and it didn’t work out. That’s all.

    Lebron is THAT guy…like for real. And I’m not a Lebron fan at all! Anyone can tell you that. But he had to live up to WAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY more hype than any of these young superstars had to live up to, and despite his shortcomings throughout his career so far he has still performed to crazy high levels. Matt Harpring should be quiet. A guy like Lebron would have extended his career at least 4 more years.

  13. Paddy McG

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  14. Peter McCready

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    I do like a debate, but that seems as good a point as any to wrap this one up 🙂

  15. Daryl Harkin Post author

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    Exactly! I can’t wait for McDermott’s follow up!

  16. Mike Calo

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    Fun discussion guys. Glad I read it all.

    Bottom line. LBJ is a stud and he made the right play. UD does hit that shot consistently and Kobe, Iverson, MJ and the rest get way to much credit for not making the best basketball play in some situations and forcing s***.

    LBJ has forced s*** plenty during his career with the Cavs and he has gotten better since leaving. I think playing with Wade has made him much more aware of some of the stuff he did in Cleveland like the 100’s of possesions where he dribbled 10 plus times and shot a fade away J late in the shot clock.
    He now seems to be much more efficient with his dribble and is starting to post up more too.

    The dude is an absolute stud and is the best player on earth.

    If there is a second guess in that situation it is only of Spo putting him in a pick and roll with UD and knowing a double team is coming at him. He could have got him Iso’d on one side of the court .

    BTW Kyrie would have got to the rim and scored!

    • Daryl Harkin Post author

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      Word on the street is… Tropics cancelled that last game on us cause you w’re scared!

      Just Sayin’!

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