When Hero Ball Works, the NBA Is Transcendent

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When Hero Ball Works, the NBA Is Transcendent
Chris Trotman/Getty Images

The city was his.

When Carmelo Anthony's second three-pointer in a five-minute span fell through the net on Sunday afternoon he got to be the hero. After giving the raucous Madison Square Garden crowd an Easter miracle by way of an overtime victory against the Chicago Bulls, Anthony owned New York.

This is what happens when you shine in the moment. Shrink and you'll feel the weight of the world bearing down upon you. Soak it up, perform, deliver, and you'll be able to become whoever you want. Usually, that's the hero.

It's amazing, isn't it? The difference a game-winning shot or 40-point performance can make is incredible. A few weeks ago, Anthony returned from the injury list to a mix of boos and cheers from fans who were unsure how they felt about his me-first brand of basketball and propensity for having the ball in his hands.

On Sunday, with Derrick Rose and Anthony each trying to shine in crunch time, Anthony was up to the challenge. When a safe three-pointer from Steve Novak rimmed around, around, around, halfway down and then out, it was a hurried three launched from Anthony that fell and forced overtime. The extra session was Anthony's and he put on a show, scoring the final five points of the game for the Knicks, including that second three with 8.2 seconds remaining on the clock.

Anthony scored 43 points—his most since being traded to the Knicks—and in addition to giving the Knicks the victory, he gave himself a free pass. People chirping about his shot selection or whether he was to blame for Mike D'Antoni's resignation were silenced because he did what he was supposed to do.

He freed himself because he gave us what we wanted.

We want hero ball. We can talk about stats and probabilities. We can groan and eye-roll and tweet snarky things when Anthony or Kobe Bryant or Russell Westbrook falter in the moment, when we think they should have made a smarter play, but when it all boils down to it, this is what we want.

What would be more exciting: Novak hitting a shot we've watched him hit all season, and celebrating his brief moment to be the hero, or Anthony saving the team—twice—at the last second, making us tense up, go silent, eyes widen as we don't dare breathe until we see whether he'll come through in the clutch or falter when it matters most?

Of course it's Anthony.

We want heroes to be heroes. We want them to be better than everyone else, bigger than the game. While a superstar can wipe the slate clean by swishing a game winner, we get to experience the high more intensely when we get the dramatic, Hollywood ending.

So superstars, keep shooting. We weren't with you in the gym, but we want you to hit the big shots all the same.

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