David Dupree
Monday April 28th, 2008

It's often the little things that feed legends, and the legend of LeBron James continues to grow.

This time, it was a simple pass that did the trick.

James has often said that the most criticism he has taken as a player came last season when in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Pistons, with the ball in his hands and the game on the line in the closing seconds, he passed instead of shot.

Donyell Marshall missed the wide-open three-pointer with 5.9 seconds left. The Cavs lost the game.

Sunday, in Game 4 of a first-round playoff series against the Wizards, the game was on the line once again, the score tied when James drove toward the basket, drew the defense and then passed to Delonte West in the corner, just as he had done a year earlier to Marshall.

This time, with 5.4 seconds left, West drilled the game-winning three-pointer, giving the Cavaliers a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.

That, in no way, means that James made the right decision this time and the wrong one the last time. He made the right decision both times, the same decision he will try to make every time. He is going to the basket hard in those situations and if he gets fouled or has the shot, so be it, but if the defense converges on him and a teammate is open and has a clear shot, he is going to pass. That's what players are taught from the first time they pick up a basketball, but it's a lesson far too many of them forget as they get older.

James passed both times because he strives to play the game the right way by making the right play. That's just one of the many traits that makes James, in the eyes of many, the best player in the league. He instinctively makes the right play because that's all he knows. He has no need or desire to play the hero. He wants to win. Period.

"I go for the winning play," James said at the time about the pass to Marshall. "If two guys come at you and your teammate is open, then give it up. Simple as that."

Coach Mike Brown also defended James' decision at the time. "LeBron trusts his teammates, his teammates trust him," he said. Brown echoed the same sentiment after Sunday's game. "He trusted his teammates, and Delonte West stepped in and made that shot," he said.

"I've always been a guy who trusted my teammates," James said. "Even before I got to the NBA, I've always been a guy who has put my teammates first and in front of me as an individual. This is a team game and I know that I can't win without my teammates. I also need to make sure that I continue to give them confidence. It means a lot more for Delonte to make that shot as our starting point guard because at times he's been tentative. I've always had confidence in my teammates to knock that shot down."

Lesser players often make up their minds that they are going to shoot the ball no matter what in those game-ending situations. Others can get gun-shy and look to give it up at the first opportunity. And then there are the most special ones who simply play the game and let it dictate what they do.

LeBron James is in the last group.

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