It's no secret LeBron hasn't been playing like himself lately. Explanations have ranged from his girlfriend cheating on him with Rashard Lewis to fatigue from playing too many minutes to lacking Michael Jordan's killer instincts.
The simple answer -- he's choking. Literally.
Choking is a real, recognized psychological problem. It happens when you overthink an action, and it affects everyone, from a kid taking a test to a basketball superstar taking a free throw.
"Attention to the details of your performance can be detrimental if you
are a highly skilled athlete who, under normal conditions, executes his
or her skill without too much conscious control," said Dr. Sian Beilock
Beilock, an expert on the science of choking and author of Choke, discussed why it took A-Rod so long to reach 600 home runs.
"Superstars have the love of the fans behind them and also the huge
expectations that come with their success, which can make them more
self-conscious. With that heightened self-consciousness, they also pay
increased attention to their own performance, which, unfortunately,
results in more shots wide of the goal or more strikes when up at bat."
When the pressure gets to be too much, Beilock explains, you can no longer perform at your best.
The point is LeBron isn't being lazy. He hasn't stopped caring. He doesn't want to let people down.
He's just a 26-year-old (how many people, regardless of status, have
it together in their mid twenties?) under pressure who finally reached his breaking
point and choked.
It's not that he doesn't want to step up. He can't.
That doesn't mean he won't play up to his potential Sunday. It just
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means that for the time being, he's stuck. And no matter how much we
yell at him, he has to come out of this on his own.
Let's just hope it's now.