You remember the play: There were :39 seconds left in Game 7, Miami was up 90-88 and of course LeBron James had the ball out at mid-court. He let the clock run down then drove right around a Mario Chalmers pick, bullied past Tony Parker who switched on to him, pulled up at the elbow extended before Kawhi Leonard could recover and sank a 19-foot jumper that essentially sealed the Heat’s win.
LeBron has said during the Finals he had watched a lot of old Michael Jordan NBA Finals games, including the 1998 push off of Byron Russell and subsequent jumper.
LeBron talked to Lee Jenkins Sports Illustrated about his shot (you need to buy the magazine to read the entire article).
“I know it wasn’t the magnitude of MJ hitting that shot in ’98, but I definitely thought about him,” James said. “It was an MJ moment.” He paused as a turn of phrase came to mind. “It was an LJ moment.”
Fair or not — and partially invited by himself because LeBron has said more than once he wants to be remembered as the greatest player ever — LeBron lives in Jordan’s huge shadow. Just check out the comments on this site or other blogs — talk about LeBron’s accomplishment of winning back-to-back MVPs, championships and Finals MVPs (something only done before by Jordan and Bill Russell) and the comment section devolves into a discussion of how LeBron isn’t Jordan.
But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have his moments, too.
LeBron correctly notes his shot isn’t as dramatic as Jordan’s, but it is dramatic — it’s a shot that sealed an NBA title.
At age 29 Jordan was 2-0 in Finals, LeBron will be 2-2 in Finals when he hits that age next season. I will again say what I’ve said about LeBron since his decision to go to Miami: We don’t know what his legacy will be. We don’t know what we’re going to say about him, what players he will have earned to be discussed with, when he hangs it up.
It’s a product of our instant media age — more than any player in history we define and re-define LeBron’s legacy from year to year, almost game to game. It’s the way things go, but it’s a barstool discussion. We just don’t know what his legacy will be.
But LeBron will have his moments. And we should let him have them.