Bill Simmons on LeBron James

Miami Heat’s LeBron James speaks during a media conference for the NBA Finals basketball series against the Dallas Mavericks in Dallas, Texas June 8, 2011. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL HEADSHOT)

If you haven’t heard already, Bill Simmons and ESPN have launched a new website at Grantland.com. It will feature longer form articles from Simmons along with other writers, including notable scribes like Malcolm Gladwell.

There’s never a shortage of topics for someone as prolific as Simmons, but he must have been thrilled to kick off his new site immediately following the bizarre Game 4 performance by LeBron James. His first column is classic Simmons, as he analyzes the LeBron situation from every possible angle, starting with The Decision:

Fact: The Decision special drew a better rating than the 2008 Finals, became an iconic moment, turned Jim Gray into a punching bag, gave bloggers a month of free shots at ESPN and turned “Taking my talents to South Beach” into a jack-of-all-trades phrase that meant you were about to leave your job, take a dump or pleasure yourself.

I wonder how long he had that line in his pocket . . .

Anyways, he gives his overall assessment of LeBron James, and I agree with most of it:

a. I think he’s one of the greatest athletes who ever lived. I will never forget watching him in person with a full head of steam, blowing through opponents like a Pop Warner running back who’s 30 pounds heavier and three seconds faster than everyone else. I am glad he passed through my life. I will tell my grandkids that I saw him play.

b. From game to game, I think the ceiling for his performance surpasses any other basketball player ever except for Wilt and Jordan.

c. As a basketball junkie, I will never totally forgive him for spending his first eight years in the NBA without ever learning a single post-up move. That weapon would make him immortal. He doesn’t care. It’s maddening.

d. In pressure moments, he comes and goes … and when it goes, it’s gone. He starts throwing hot-potato passes, stops driving to the basket, shies away from open 3s, stands in the corner, hides as much as someone that gifted can hide on a basketball court. It started happening in Game 3, then fully manifested itself in Game 4’s stunning collapse, when he wouldn’t even consider beating DeShawn Stevenson off the dribble. Afterward, one of my closest basketball friends — someone who has been defending LeBron’s ceiling for years — finally threw up his hands and gave up. “It’s over,” he said. “Jordan never would have done THAT.” (Footnote: That’s the third time LeBron opened the door for someone to say that. The first: Game 5 of the Boston series. The second: choosing to play with Wade.)

The only part of the above I disagree with is the following: “In pressure moments, he comes and goes … and when it goes, it’s gone.” This implies that he only has epic meltdowns, but this just isn’t true. Everyone will remember Game 5 last year against Boston and Game 4 against the Mavs, but there have been countless time where LeBron has had serious lapses of judgement in critical moments. It usually involves getting careless and tossing up a senseless three at times when the team desperately needs a bucket without even trying to get into the offense, let alone setting up for a post-up move or other high-percentage shot. As a Cavs fan I saw this repeatedly, to the point where it became hard to root for the guy. Go back and watch the Cavs-Orlando series from 2009. People remember LeBron’s big three to win Game 2, but that was negated by numerous brain farts throughout the series.

I have no idea what LeBron will do tonight. As Simmons points out, he’s capable of having a legendary game, but he’s also capable of wilting under pressure. Anything is possible, and that’s why most fans can’t wait to watch . . .

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

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