I’m not an NBA fan, and yet I couldn’t help but comment on last night’s NBA Finals game between the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder.
LeBron James has been vilified more than Richard Nixon and I’m still not entirely sure why. Don’t get me wrong. I’m neither a fan of Miami nor a big LeBron fan. But, from a casual observer, he’s the most talented player I’ve seen since Michael Jordan.
Last night, with roughly 4 minutes to play, LeBron fell and hurt his ankle, then started to cramp. He got up, barely able to walk, let alone run. His team was already down the other end of the floor and forced a Thunder turnover, rocketing the ball down the court to LeBron at the other end. Then, the guy that couldn’t walk found a way to shoot over the top of a defender for a relatively easy two-point basket (if you can jump, which it didn’t appear he really could).
Some time on the sidelines with the trainers still couldn’t work the cramps out, but LeBron came back into the game anyway. With the game tied and a bit less than 3 minutes left to play, he caught a pass just outside the 3-point line with a very able Thunder defender guarding him. I don’t think there was any way he could drive the lane at that point, he looked hobbled walking up the floor. So, he seemed likely to make a key pass, something he does so well.
Instead, he raised up for a 3-point shot since his defender was almost daring him to, taking a step back to prepare for a LeBron drive. Anyone that’s ever played basketball knows you can’t do it without your legs. And yet, somehow LeBron’s shot found nothing but the bottom of the net. 3-point lead, dagger delivered, LeBron headed to the bench shortly thereafter. His teammates finished up a tight win to push LeBron closer to the title nobody really wants him to have.
I wouldn’t call it as gutsy as Jordan’s epic performance with the flu in the Finals a million years ago. But, LeBron is the best we’ve seen in a while and he showed it last night.
I hated Jordan. As a lifelong Pistons fan, he was our nemesis. But, you couldn’t help but marvel at his greatness. He could do things other players only dreamed of. I don’t think you’ll see many moments as compelling as this one last night, and it makes me marvel at LeBron’s sheer will to win. Jordan had that, and LeBron does too. When most of America would have sat down on the bench and let someone else finish (heck, he had already earned that right), LeBron did what most people couldn’t do. He blocked out the pain and pretty much everything else on the court and went ahead and hit one of the biggest shots of his life.
He won’t silence all the critics with that shot or even an eventual title win. That’s a shame.