It was the most exciting moment in the All-Star Game, the kind of riveting moment that has people on the edge of their seats, or jumping out of them.
In a live ball situation off an offensive rebound, LeBron James had the ball against Kobe Bryant about 35 feet from the basket, with eight other stars on the floor. There were about six seconds to go, and the East All-Stars were down by two points to the West All-Stars, thanks to a fantastic fourth-quarter rally led by LeBron.
What we wanted LeBron to do was either drive for a tying two or shoot a 3-pointer for the do-or-die basket against Kobe – or, if necessary, make a great dish to set up a teammate. What we didn’t want, as our pulses were racing, was a coach who felt like he needed to stop the action and put his footprint on the game.
Fortunately East coach Tom Thibodeau knew that.
Here’s what Thibodeau said after the game when asked why he refrained from calling a timeout with the game in the balance:
You have a scramble situation and an open floor, and you have a very dynamic scorer and a guy with great vision and good decision-making. You know, you can call a time-out and it allows the defense to get set, or you can trust his ability to make a play. Throughout his career, he's shown that he's capable of making big plays.
Of course, LeBron turned the ball over, the East lost, and today his miscue is the talk of the league.
Luckily for LeBron it was just the All-Star Game, a high-profile exhibition. Still, Thibodeau’s words reveal meaningful basketball philosophy: when the best player has the ball, and the game, in his hands, it’s often best for the coach to leave well enough alone.