Few athletes ready for the postseason spotlight

The championship spotlight shines like no other.

Under its glare, some grow in stature. Others shrink.

And it’s not predictable who will do what.

Who would have thought that Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, seemingly a spotlight-hogging hound, would shine in victory like he has?

His deferring the spotlight to others, yet paying for anything worthy of the celebration, has been as classy as one could imagine.

His inclusion of long-time Mavericks owner Donald Carter was a touch most might have missed.

Offering to pay for a championship parade, even leaving a $20,000 tip for the wait staff at a Miami restaurant for working during his celebration. All positives. 

And then there was LeBron James, who grew up dreaming of playing in that spotlight. And then having to deal with the fact that he really wasn’t ready for it when it shined his way.

He didn’t perform as advertised in key moments, and he certainly was overmatched by losing and having so many basketball fans rooting for his — and the Miami Heat’s — demise.

Those who come up short in the championship spotlight give off the feeling as obvious as a television actor starring in a movie. Just not quite big enough when measured against a Sean Connery, a genuine movie star.

Bay Area native and former Cal star Jason Kidd shined in the championship glare, as the finals looked like just another basketball game for him. Kidd hit some big 3-pointers down the stretch for the Mavs. 

No personality bloomed in the championship spotlight more than Michael Jordan, who was able to perform at a level he’s been unable to duplicate in ordinary life.

Reggie Jackson and Joe Montana are in Jordan’s class. Tiger Woods, despite other flaws recently uncovered, seemed invincible in his biggest moments on the golf course, too.

In the sport of golf, it seems a talent must grow into it, as we were reminded by Rory McIlroy’s final round at Augusta. Nicklaus did, Weiskopf didn’t. Faldo did, Norman didn’t.

The championship spotlight obviously agreed with the 2010 Giants, who grew with each step of their postseason run. Bruce Bochy deserves mention for his level-headed thinking at times other men in his position would have panicked. I’m reminded of Dusty Baker in 2002 as an example the latter.

That same glare seemingly blinded the 2010-2011 Sharks, who seemed to have all the ingredients in rounds prior to the conference finals.

Tim Liotta is a freelance journalist and regular contributor to The Examiner. Email him at tliotta@sfexaminer.com.

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