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Point/counterpoint: Who did more damage to his reputation in the past week — LeBron James or Terrelle Pryor?

BY DI STAFF | JUNE 14, 2011 7:20 AM

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LeBron James

Boy, does Scottie Pippen look dumb.

Just a few weeks ago, the Hall of Famer said LeBron James is on track to become the best player in NBA history. Yes, even better than Michael Jordan.

Whoops.

James completely fell apart in the NBA Finals. Everyone has a bad game from time to time, but James made a habit of disappearing in the fourth quarter.

He scored 2 points (both on free throws), no points, 2 points, and 7 points in the fourth periods of the Heat’s losses. He netted a total of 7 points in the fourth quarters of Miami’s two wins.

There will be endless debate over what, specifically, went wrong with James. That doesn’t matter. What matters is the catastrophic amount of damage that his abysmal clutch play did to his reputation as a basketball player.

Polls on ESPN.com early on Monday afternoon said 58 percent of voters think Dirk Nowitzki is a better player than James; 57 percent said they will remember the Finals because the Heat lost and not because the Mavs won.

In other words, the sporting world seems to think somewhat less of James as a player than it did just a short while ago.

This isn’t to say that Terrelle Pryor didn’t make an ass of himself this past week too, though — he did. But at least Pryor’s transgressions stem from being a kid who wants to get paid. We can’t begrudge him that, no matter how bratty he seemed when his lawyer said the Canadian League wasn’t offering him enough money to “whet his appetite.”

Nobody is questioning Pryor’s ability to chuck a football or scramble for a touchdown. He stepped up when it counted most, accounting for 336 total yards and three scores in the 2011 Sugar Bowl.

When James was put in similar situations, though — say, for example, the fourth quarter of an NBA Finals game — he wilted. Over and over and over again.

James has been hyped as the second coming of Jordan since he entered the league, and thanks to his awful Finals, people should finally put those ludicrous comparisons to rest. His Airness was at his best in the clutch, and he has six championship rings to show for it (as actor Jason Segel reminds us in that stupid Bad Teacher ad that runs 17 times an hour).

James has fewer rings than Adam Morrison, one of the biggest flops of our generation.

How’s your foot taste, Scottie?

— by Seth Roberts

Terrelle Pryor

Terrelle Pryor played a huge role in Ohio State’s success over the past two seasons. He led the Buckeyes to two BCS bowl victories — the team beat Oregon in the Rose Bowl two years ago, and Arkansas this past year in the Sugar Bowl.

In time, though, we will see that Pryor also played a major part in helping everyone forget his time on two of the better Ohio State teams in recent memory.

There’s a reason Pryor did more damage to his legacy than LeBron James did to his, and it revolves around one simple idea: Time.

James has it.

Pryor doesn’t.

King James still has plenty of time to rebound from his blunder in the finals, and has at least three more seasons with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh as teammates in Miami. Though the three failed to win a championship this year, it seems very unlikely that the Heat won’t win at least one — if not more — NBA championships with those three stars on the roster.

James is going to have more opportunities to recover from his less-than-clutch performance against Dallas in this year’s finals. While many might now view James as a disappointment, it seems inevitable that he will be back in the Finals to redeem himself before too long.

If James wins one or multiple rings, his legacy will be viewed in a far different light than it is today.
Pryor, on the other hand, doesn’t have any of this. In fact, he doesn’t even have a team to play for right now — and the reason he doesn’t have a team to play for is what everyone, including the Buckeye faithful, will remember of their once beloved quarterback.

The scent of Pryor’s wrongdoing in Columbus is so foul that the NCAA has started a separate investigation just for his actions. He reportedly is connected to six different cars during his time at Ohio State, none of which were actually his.

He managed to pull off the oh-so-impressive twofer of running both his coach and himself out of town, jeopardizing his once-promising future.

So when people look back on Pryor and James 25 years from now, what will they remember?
For James, it is still an uncertainty. But it is positive uncertainty, knowing that he still has time. The 26-year-old has several seasons ahead of him, and he will be considered one of the best players in the league.

But Pryor’s collegiate days are behind him, and he has to face the uncertainty of the NFL lockout.

While he put his name in the supplemental draft, what his future holds is anyone’s guess.

And all he’s leaving behind now are tattoos, autographs, and a handful of used vehicles.

— by Ben Schuff


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