Photo Credit: FOX Sports (Will Power), Huffington Post (LeBron James)
Many times in sports, you will hear various teams and players referred to as “chokers” for either blowing a lead that they should have held on to, or simply caving in when it mattered most. This comparison between Will Power, an IndyCar driver, and LeBron James, an NBA player, will go in detail in comparing how both of the two, despite being among the greatest athletes of all time in their respective sports, have generally struggled when it has come down to winning the championship on the biggest stage, and why their habitual “choking” may hinder them from going down among the greatest athletes of all time in their respective sports.
When I say these two athletes are two of the best of all time in their respective sports, I mean it. Will Power has won 27 IndyCar races, good for second most all-time in the post-split modern-day IndyCar series, and 29 American championship car victories, which is tied for 11th most all-time. LeBron James has won four NBA MVP awards and is one of only five players to have done so, and he has finished either 2nd or 3rd in the NBA MVP voting another five times as well.
Despite the greatness both of these athletes have shown in their respective sports, their championship performances have not been the best, nor have they been even close to the best. Sure, both are champions in their respective sports. However, combined, these athletes have won four championships and totalled eight runner-up finishes, meaning they are essentially 4-8 when it matters most, which is not something you would expect out of two athletes that are among the all-time greatest in their respective sports.
Will Power, 35, has finished in the top 2 in the IndyCar championship standings a total of five times in his career, but has only managed to win one title. He was the IndyCar series championship leader in the 2010, 2011, and 2012 seasons before crashing out in the final race in each of those seasons and allowing another competitor to win the title. Dario Franchitti snatched the championship from him in 2010 and 2011, and Ryan Hunter-Reay snatched it from him in 2012. Power was finally able to hang on to a championship lead and win a championship in the 2014 season, but then in the 2016 season, running in 2nd place in the championship standings entering the final race, his car lost power in the middle of the race and ruined his chances at winning the title. Therefore, overall, Power is essentially 1-4 when it matters most, and three of those losses, or basically 2nd place finishes, were his own fault for crashing, making him a typical “choker”. How can Power be considered among the greatest IndyCar drivers of all time when he is one of the least clutch performing drivers of all time?
LeBron James, 31, has been in seven NBA Finals series in his career, and he has been able to win three championships. A 3-4 record is far from awful, especially with how he got his three victories, particularly the one this past summer over a historically good Golden State Warriors team, but seeing as how he is one of the greatest NBA players of all time, it is unacceptable to lose four times on the biggest stage and win fewer times than that. In two of those four championship series losses, James’ teams had 2-1 series leads. In the 2011 season, James’ Miami Heat led the Dallas Mavericks 2-1, and in the 2015 season, James’ Cleveland Cavaliers led the Golden State Warriors 2-1. Sure, a 2-1 series lead is not all that commanding, but when you think about it from the opponent’s perspective, it becomes just that. From the point of the opponent, being down 2-1 in a series means that the absolute worst you can do and still come away with the title is win three of the next four games. If your team does worse than a 3-1 record the rest of the way, it’s over and you lose. But in both of the 2-1 leads James’ teams had, their opponents did not do worst. Instead, both the Mavericks in 2011 and the Warriors in 2015 actually did better, winning three games in a row to win the series. How does one of the NBA’s greatest players of all time blow championship opportunities like that?
Both Will Power and LeBron James are great athletes in their respective sports, and their numbers back them up as being among the greatest of all time in their respective sports. However, can either of them really be considered among the greatest athletes of all time in their respective sports given how poorly they have performed and how much they have struggled to prove their greatness in championships when it mattered most? That is for you to decide, but make sure you consider the content in this article before making that decision.