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Phil Jackson’s advice to LeBron James for Game 3? Be like Mike


Down 2-0 heading into Wednesday’s Game 3, the Cleveland Cavaliers are facing the prospect of being run out of the NBA Finals by the Golden State Warriors. Prevailing wisdom suggests that a Herculean effort out of LeBron James will be needed in Game 3 to save the Cavaliers from a quick exit.

Much has been written about the myriad reasons why the Cavaliers are staring at an 0-2 hole heading home to the friendlier confines of Quicken Loans Arena. Fair or not, much of the discussion centers around James’ role in the Cavs’ struggles, although the case can be made that its the superstar’s supporting cast who is most to blame for the tough situation the squad finds itself in.

All that aside, New York Knicks president Phil Jackson, who once faced the daunting task of coming back from an 0-2 deficit to win a series during his head coaching tenure with the Chicago Bulls, recalled something from 23 years ago to advise James on how he alone can save the Cavaliers’ title hopes:

Be like Mike.

The Bulls were down 0-2 to the New York Knicks in the 1993 Eastern Conference Finals when an unflattering New York Times report detailed Michael Jordan’s off-day visit to an Atlantic City casino. Jackson recalls that Jordan used the criticism as motivation and led the Bulls to four straight victories to punch the Bulls’ ticket to the NBA Finals.

“It did something to Michael Jordan. You learned something about pulling the cape of Superman. It’s not a good idea. He was a man possessed after that,” Jackson said, via the New York Daily News. “I think it’s going to take something for LeBron to step into that. Put his cape on and say, “I’m going to have to take over a lot of this series, doing the things beyond my level or my normal capacity.’ He’s been a team player up until this point but I think he’s going to have to step beyond that.”

James has been solid if not spectacular in the NBA Finals and even took the blame for the Cavaliers’ struggles. Team leaders often shoulder the criticism to take the pressure off their teammates, so it’s no surprise James did the same.

But if James truly wants to get the Cavaliers back into the series, the way to do so is quite simple, at least according to the Zen Master.