The stat line says LeBron James didn't choke in the fourth quarter Sunday night. He had seven points in the final 12 minutes as the Heat was extinguished by the Mavericks in one of the best and most compelling NBA Finals in recent memory. That gave LeBron 18 fourth-quarter points in the six games of the series.
But while the game might have helped pad his stats and made revisionist history not judge him quite as harshly, we all know better. James succumbed to the pressure. He did it in a way that is very familiar, and very much a part of human nature. He chose an error of omission over an error of commission.
That's a relatively new phrase to us -- brought to light by a recent post on TwinsGeek.blogspot.com about a sports book called "Scorecasting." From that blog post came this very apt phrase: "We are more willing to forgive an error caused by doing nothing over an error caused by doing something. And thus humans are far more willing to commit an error of omission over an error of commission, because it gets us into less trouble."
LeBron knew that if he tried to take over and failed, that would be a clear failure. The upside was that he could be the hero, but he decided the risk was too great. He opted for another fourth-quarter game of hot potato, firing the ball around the perimeter while Dirk Nowitzki wrote the final chapter in his emerging legend by scoring 10 points and willing his team to victory in spite of missing shot after shot for three quarters.
LeBron can look back at the boxscore, tell himself he scored seven of his team-high 21 points in the fourth quarter, and say, "Hey, it wasn't my fault. I wasn't the one missing all the shots."
Ironically, though, while we would agree that the error of omission tends to let us off the hook in our own minds, it is perhaps even worse than the error of commission in the minds of others. The vast majority of us will insist James failed by being afraid to fail. He would have taken heat either way in a loss -- missing shots vs. refusing to take them -- but it's going to be worse this way.
A superstar can't be afraid to make an error of commission. This whole taking of his talents to South Beach might have been designed so LeBron wouldn't have to do it all himself. What Dwyane Wade must be thinking now, though, is that even if LeBron didn't do it all himself, he at least had to do what he can do.
For many of us, it's a familiar private hurdle. For LeBron, it is a very public hurdle.