Unless you hate basketball or sports completely, you probably heard about LeBron James missing a couple of big free throws last night.
As Mike Tirico highlighted, those were two of eight charity stripe misses for LeBron yesterday against Houston. Considering he only shot 11 free throws, that’s – like Tirico said – astonishing for somebody of his caliber.
James is now shooting .716% from the line this season, which is his lowest since 2008. For his career, LeBron James’ free throw percentage is at .746 – ranging anywhere from .698% to .780% throughout 12 NBA seasons.
If those numbers don’t cause much of a reaction, that’s to be expected. By all accounts, those are pretty average. Nothing to write home about.
But since when is anything that LeBron James does average?
This is the best player in the NBA and one of the greatest ever. He can do basically anything he wants on a basketball court whenever he wants, but his biggest weakness/inconsistency is the part where nobody is guarding you?
Weird. Just so weird.
And speaking of LeBron’s free throw numbers being ‘average,’ I guess that would actually be a little generous. Looking at the NBA’s league-wide average for free throw percentage – that’s as average as a statistic can get – James hasn’t been above the league median since 2011-2012. The last time the league’s average was below his career average of .746%?
Again, incredibly odd. Never has the word average been associated with LeBron James so much. Usually, anything or anyone LeBron gets compared to is the opposite of mediocre. He’s constantly debated about in comparison to the best NBA players – both active and the all-time greats.
So to keep the free throw data train rolling, we’re going to do the same. Here’s how James stacks up against the players he’s most often likened to; because of their size, position, elite scoring ability, crazy athleticism or some combination of the four.
LeBron James: .746/.780/.698
Michael Jordan: .835/.857/.784
Kobe Bryant: .837/.868/.794
Kevin Durant: .881/.905/.854
Oscar Robertson: .838/.873/.803
Magic Johnson: .848/.911/.760
Dominique Wilkins: .811/.847/.682
Larry Bird: .886/.930/.836
Julius Erving: .777/.845/.745
Other than being remarkably strange, James’ free throw inconsistencies stand out for two reasons. 1) Imagine what his career scoring numbers would look like if he was at say, 80%, and 2) this is just so LeBron.
The latter was exemplified by the Rockets game, missing two clutch ones just moments after he got away with a foul on James Harden. A textbook example of ‘ball don’t lie,’ random lapses like this are exactly what fuel people (hello, Skip Bayless) to criticize LeBron James’ lack of “mental drive.” Which isn’t something I’m going to subscribe to, considering the dude has two rings and four MVP awards.
I just think it’s really weird. Maybe his hands are too big.