In the aftermath of the Heat’s Game 7 victory over the Spurs, everyone was trying to get a piece of LeBron James. The coronation began as the buzzer sounded. James earned his second consecutive Finals MVP award, and the ESPN Countdown crew exulted in praise of King James. Magic Johnson could not contain his LeBron crush, and quickly stoked the greatest-of-all-time debate and inevitable Jordan comparison (clearly Magic has some beef with Jordan).
But oh let’s not forget…
…if it wasn’t for Ray Allen’s superb shot in the final seconds of Game 6, capping off perhaps the greatest playoff comeback since Reggie Miller broke the spirit of the New York Knicks in the final 18 seconds of Game 1 of the 1995 Eastern Conference Semifinals, we would be telling a very different story.
Yes. LeBron led the Heat back in Game 6 with an impressive fourth-quarter performance. But in the real clutch moments, the final minutes of life-or-death basketball in Game 6, James did his best choke impression.
In the Heat’s final five possessions in regulation, James choked on four, and only a lucky offensive rebound gave James a redemptive three-point shot and a chance to save his legacy. In fact, James turned the ball over without even registering a shot attempt on two of the last three Heat possessions. Both turnovers sent Manu Ginobili to the foul line where he delivered three of four foul shots.
The Spurs granted James wide-open jump shots in those last couple minutes and, for whatever reason, James did not have the confidence to knock them down. He elected instead to force the basketball inside into the thick San Antonio defense where he was easily thwarted.
Unimpressive to say the least for an apparent greatest-of-all time candidate.
The only time I can remember Jordan showing similar weakness was in his comeback season when he played only 17 games and turned the ball over twice at the end of a Game 1 loss to Shaquille O'Neal's Orlando Magic. But that was a rusty Michael Jordan, and LeBron is ostensibly at the peak of his powers.
Still, that’s the way the ball bounces and there are always a thousand “what-if” scenarios. Nobody can take this championship away from LeBron and few will remember his near melt-down at the conclusion of Game 6 which would have given San Antonio the championship.