LeBron James played in his eighth straight All-Star Game on Sunday night.
LeBron James played in his eighth straight All-Star Game on Sunday night. Reuters

Even in an exhibition game, LeBron James comes up short during the biggest moment.

It was a typical game for James. He dominated for much of the contest, but disappointed in the final minute.

The West led most of the way, scoring a record 88 points in the first half.

With less than nine minutes to go and the East down by 20 points, James led his team on a 31-13 run that made the game interesting at the end.

Down by two with just a few seconds left, James threw the ball away and essentially ended any chance of the East completing the comeback.

Up until that turnover, James had been playing as well as anyone on the floor. He scored 36 points on 65 percent shooting. He also grabbed six boards and dished out seven assists.

But with the game on the line, James appeared to want no part of taking the last shot. He threw a desperate pass, to seemingly no one, instead of putting up the potential game-winner.

Kobe Bryant, who was guarding James during the possession, told his counterpart to take the final shot.

James did not oblige.

Yeah, he was telling me to shoot it, James said. I wish I could have that one back.

James' performance will only give credence to the popular belief that he is a great player for most of the game, but not as good in the clutch.

Sure, the All-Star game is just an exhibition. Anyone who watched the game could see that.

There were so many alley-oops that it seemed like the two squads were having an in-game dunk contest. Even without watching the game, the 152-149 final should exhibit the kind of defensive effort most of the players gave.

The 301 total points was the second-most ever in the game's 61-year history.

However, despite the nature of the game, things started to get more serious in the fourth quarter.

Fewer points were scored in that period than any other, as both the East and West showed more of a commitment to defense. In the final minutes, it was no longer just a fun exhibition.

Both teams wanted to win.

James certainly wouldn't have silenced all his critics by hitting a game-winning shot. They would have likely disregarded it as a shot in a game that meant nothing.

Refusing to take the shot certainly makes the perception of James worse.

James is very aware of how people see him. He has talked many times about being the villain and understands he is not viewed as a clutch player.

It doesn't matter that the All-Star Game doesn't mean anything. Because of his past performances in big moments, that was an important play for James, and he still didn't take the final shot.

It may have mattered more for James to actually take the shot than for him to make it and win the game.

People know the All-Star is talented. The question is whether or not he is afraid of failing in crunch time.

Most people will forget his stellar play in the first 47 minutes, and simply focus on the final 60 seconds.

Fair or not, until James wins a championship, everything he does will be scrutinized.

Even in a game that doesn't count.