The evidence has mounted to such an extent that Brian Windhorst of ESPN has written an article about LeBron James’ fantastic memory.
So what does it mean? What it seems to suggest — at least the part of it that James will discuss — is that if you give up the baseline to James on a drive in November 2011 and he’s playing against you in March 2013, the Heat small forward will remember it. It means that if you tried to change your pick-and-roll coverage in the middle of the fourth quarter of the 2008 playoffs, he’ll be ready for you to try it again in 2014, even if you’re coaching a different team. It also means that if you had a good game the last time you played against Milwaukee because James got you a few good looks in the first quarter, the next time you play the Bucks you can count on James looking for you early in the game. Because, you know, the memory never forgets.
“I can usually remember plays in situations a couple of years back — quite a few years back sometimes,” James says. “I’m able to calibrate them throughout a game to the situation I’m in, to know who has it going on our team, what position to put him in.
“I’m lucky to have a photographic memory,” he will add, “and to have learned how to work with it.”
Which sounds great, right? Except that thinking’s best friend is often overthinking.
Consider what you know of the 2011 NBA Finals. And now consider it, instead, like this: In what will likely be remembered as the low point of his career, James is miserable for several games against the Dallas Mavericks — including a vitally important Game 4 collapse when he somehow scores just eight points in 46 minutes. At times during that game it appears as if James is in a trance.
“What is he thinking?” the basketball world wonders.
James — with two titles and counting, and four straight trips to the Finals — can admit today what he’s thinking in 2011: He’s thinking of everything. Everything good, and everything bad. In 2011, he isn’t just playing against the Mavs; he’s also battling the demons of a year earlier, when he failed in a series against the Boston Celtics as the pressure of the moment beat him down. It’s Game 5 of the 2010 Eastern Conference semifinals, and it is, to this point, perhaps the most incomprehensible game of James’ career. His performance is so lockjawed, so devoid of rhythm, the world crafts its own narrative, buying into unfounded and ridiculous rumors because they seem more plausible than his performance.
I’ve probably said this a million times, but my favorite aspect of sports is the mental game, each athlete’s battle with her/himself: from Shaq’s dreamful attraction to Allen Iverson’s visualization in lieu of practice to better living through self deception to Roger Federer’s conservation of concentration to free diver Natalia Molchanova’s attention deconcentration to deliberate practice to relaxed concentration. James taming his tide of memories fits right in.