After Tuesday night’s Lakers vs. Jazz pre-season game, Kobe Bryant offered some controversial advice to his buddy, Alex Rodriguez, who has been drawing criticism for his post-season play, or lack there of. It’s becoming a far too common thing in New York as he has yet to do anything in 2012 to silence his critics.
So far in this post-season, A-Rod has a .130 batting average with 12 strikeouts and only 3 hits with 23 at bats. His numbers and performance have been so horrible that he has been benched multiple times.
In regards to A-Rod’s post-season shortcomings, Kobe Bryant stated,
“I think really the difference is that sometimes he forgets he’s the best….where I don’t.”
If you didn’t know this interview was about Alex Rodriguez, I wouldn’t blame anyone for thinking that it could be about LeBron James.
After all of LeBron’s disappearing acts in the NBA Playoffs, I always wondered what it must feel like to be a fan of his. Of course they defend him and come up with many excuses on a yearly basis, but I always knew deep down inside it had to suck to watch their favorite player magically disappear, while his rival made it to the championship three straight years in a row.
Who would have thought that all this time I was wondering this, I already knew how it felt? I have been a life-long New York Yankee fan, so you can imagine how I must feel to watch someone like Alex Rodriguez have these poor playoff performances.
Both A-Rod and LeBron James have posted hall of fame type numbers, during most regular seasons of their careers. They’ve both even won multiple MVP awards. Both players have gained many different personal achievements and awards, while doing things that only very few players in both MLB and NBA history have been able to do.
But then the playoffs arrive and this switch is inexplicably turned off in clutch situations. Since 2004, A-Rod has batted under .200 in the playoffs with 4 game-ending strikeouts. Most of his disappearing acts have come with runners in scoring position. In his entire Yankee post-season career, he has 210 at-bats with only 55 hits while striking out 59 times. He also has not hit a homerun in the post-season, since 2010.
The same thing goes for LeBron, who as great as he may be, did things like shoot 20% from the field while only attempting 14 shots in a pivotal game 5 vs. the Boston Celtics. In the very next game, he shot 38% and had 9 turnovers as he was eliminated out of the 2010 NBA Playoffs. After joining the Miami Heat and making it to the finals in 2011, LeBron only averaged 17.8 points per game, which was an 8.9 point drop from his regular season scoring average. He completely disappeared, leaving all of his fans scratching their heads.
Ironically, both players have made it over the hump exactly one time in their careers. On his way to a World Series Championship in 2009, A-Rod batted .365, hit six home runs, and had a .500 on base percentage in the post-season. LeBron similarly had a very impressive playoff performance last year, as he averaged 30.3 points, 9.7 rebounds, and 5.6 assists per game.
As impressive as these two playoff performances were, it’s not enough. When considering the great regular season performances both players have had and all of the hype surrounding them, one championship just doesn’t cut it. One great playoff performance does not make up for all of shortcomings in their careers. After the great 2009 performance, A-Rod obviously returned to his disappearing act. I’m not convinced that Lebron won’t do the same after his one championship run.
On the other hand, Kobe Bryant has proven time and time again that he is who we say he is. It’s why he’s been to the NBA Finals 7 times and has 5 rings. It’s why even a Kobe hater can’t question his hunger to win. It’s why we’ve witnessed so many game winning shots and clutch performances. It’s why guys like Skip Bayless and Stephen A Smith agree that he may be the mentally toughest athlete in all of sports history.
Kobe Bryant has been able to separate himself from these multiple types of questionable playoff performances that hyped up guys like LeBron and A-Rod have demonstrated because he never forgets that he is the best.