King-maker Pat Riley tells a story about needing help. Seems that Magic Johnson, ultimate winner, was so short-circuited toward the end of games even with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s assistance that he didn’t want to so much as think. The mental drain of carrying a team against waves of impassioned aggressors, and making all the important decisions, left him fried as the last seconds approached.
Magic wanted to do so little thinking in that weary physical and mental state — “scrambled,” to use Riley’s word — that he eventually asked his coach to please just hold up easy signs to convey every play he wanted run in the last few minutes. Magic Johnson, leader, floor general, champion, wanted to follow executive orders then, finding a modicum of relief in doing what he was told instead of having to create it all himself. It’ll wear you out, making all the decisions from quarter to quarter, game to game, day to day, month to month.
LeBron James and Dwyane Wade grew tired of carrying this kind of late-game cross all alone across several dry seasons and postseasons, James so weary that Cleveland still believes he simply quit at the end of his last broken journey there. It is one of the reasons James and Wade came together, to share that burden, as friends, and make the heavy lifting lighter — the sports equivalent of calling a buddy to help you move a couch. Perhaps you’ve noticed that 32-year-old Dirk Nowitzki sits in the middle of the very first quarter to keep him fresh for late and that even 22-year-old Derrick Rose rested many more minutes in the last series than the older LeBron. Maybe it is coincidence that Rose didn’t have the legs for long jumpers late and James did, but this isn’t: