Heat Strokes, Game 20: In Which We're Reminded That LeBron Is Not A DickS

FreeDarko's Bethlehem Shoals, a regular contributor to NBA FanHouse and co-author of The Undisputed Guide to Pro Basketball History (visit the FreeDarko store, too!), is keeping a game-by-game diary of the Heat's season — the one you're pretending not to care about.

Result: Heat 118, Cavaliers 90
Record: 12-8

Everyone should at some point get an email with the subject head, "this changes nothing." It's insulting, sure, but it's also comforting. And that's pretty much how I feel after having sat through most of last night's Heat game.

LeBron James is still a force like no other, as we saw in the third. Despite their recent losing streak, the Heat as a unit still can demolish bad teams without ever really pulling out the stops. The Cavs are still terrible, and even if some Cleveland fans got closure from the experience, their collective psychodrama wasn't what put the rest of us in front of our TVs. Let's be honest: We watched only because we thought someone might throw a box of fetal rats out on the floor. We watched, sort of, until the bitter end, because there is no statute of limitations on acts of great indecency.

But lost in all the hub-bub was an important lesson about LeBron James, basketball player: He really isn't a jerk on the court. For all his preening and posturing, when it comes to playing the game, dude simply doesn't have that Kobe gene for pure, unmitigated dickitude. This isn't meant as a knock on him at all, or a revival of those old "where is the killer instinct?" debates. James may be an egomaniac, but he was never going to come out gunning and hang 60 on his former team just to make a point. This isn't about trust in his teammates, or questions of how much help he has. On the most basic level — and regardless of how many scoring titles he has won — James plays a total game. Yes, he sometimes goes into attack mode, but it's situational. Kobe has those nights where his sole m.o. is scoring. When LeBron one-upped him at Madison Square, he also managed a seamless triple-double.

Does that make him soft? Am I idealizing his game? Would you ever think of describing an athlete like LeBron James as merely "sensible"? All of these questions miss the point. I hated the last line of the Decision-based Nike ad, and yet it's dead-on here. James is a scoring machine because he can be. The same goes for his rebounding and playmaking. He's no more capable of firing away with blinders on than he is reducing himself to a pure facilitator. That's frightening, god-like, but also strangely passive. LeBron just happens, and no one knows this better than the man himself.

Oh, and so people have something to argue about, I think his postgame comments were the most shrewd, and convincing, things he's said about leaving to date. Right down to posting the Twitter clarification of his use of "greatness." He slipped — which means he was a little nervous, which means he has a soul.

Bethlehem Shoals is a founding member of FreeDarko.com and a regular contributor to NBA FanHouse. You can buy The Undisputed Guide to Pro Basketball History and lots of other stuff at the FreeDarko store.