By Travis Stahl
There was a great column on Grantland yesterday about Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder. The article outlined how by beating the Spurs Durant had what was referred to as a “leap” game in which he ascended to the heights of championship caliber superstar. Every player in the NBA that goes on to become a legend of the league has “leap” games where their game reaches heights we didn’t think it was capable of going. As odd as it is, LeBron James had a “leap” game Thursday night.
James scored 45 points as the Miami Heat fought off elimination to beat Boston in game six of the Eastern Conference Finals. LeBron scored from all angles, on dunks, bank shots, floating one-handers and off the scoreboard. OK, one of those I made up. The kind of shots James made was not what made the game special, heck, it wasn’t even the total number of points he scored.
What made this playoff game special wasn’t what LeBron did; it was how he did it. James’ critics have cried for years he wasn’t a big-game player. Well, Thursday was about as big as they get and from the opening tip LeBron put the Heat on his back and decided he was going to carry the team to a win. Keep in mind, a win in the Garden no less. This is the same place where Jordan once scored 63 and lost. This is the same place Dominque Wilkins played the greatest game of his life, and still lost. LeBron was not losing this game.
The critics of James and the Heat have cried all year that this team cannot win with only the Big Three (James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh) and a bunch of nobodies. Thursday wasn’t anywhere close to the Big Three or even the Big Two as Wade only scored 17 points. Wade only had 11 points going in to the fourth quarter and Bosh looked like he had just joined the team and hadn’t been taught any of their offensive sets yet.
Thursday night was a legend game for LeBron. It was one of those special NBA playoff games people will be talking about 25 years from now saying “Remember the night King James scored 45 in the Garden?” It is those kinds of games that cement legacies and it is also those kind of games that can ignite a championship fire in special players.