Somewhere between the LeBron James depicted as an impossibly passive player incapable of closing big games and the one who is expected to win seven championship rings is an elite basketball player who is finally learning how to dominate all four quarters of a Game 7.
Going into the game's final 12 minutes, the Heat and Celtics were locked at 73 apiece in what up until that point was a roller-coaster game. The squads continually exchanged small leads until eight minutes left. Neither team could attain momentum, playing at a grinding pace. (The Heat took a game total of 70 shots, the Celtics 75.)
And then, LeBron James did what all the best NBA players throughout the league's history—those who played well before the existence of digi-media hype—have done. He took over the fourth quarter with aggressive, successful offensive plays and ended the series.
The first was this thunderous (no Oklahoma City Thunder pun intended) cross-over dunk with six minutes left in the game. James used his unstoppable brutish athleticism to bulldoze to the hoop and announce that he was about to take the game over. About a minute later, he did. As reported by ESPN, Celtics coach Doc Rivers declared this beautiful LBJ rainbow 30-foot three-pointer a "back breaker."
In our hyper-obsessive statistics age, we will always obsess over LBJ's magnificent statical output. However, it is these two plays that pull the spotlight off the stat sheets or the LBJ troll columns and back on the court.
Interestingly enough, ESPN Classic played a repeated broadcast of "The Announcement" during last night's game. The two-hour special covers James's 2010 public announcement that he would leave his former Cleveland Cavaliers team to join the Miami Heat.
The show title needs revision. Of all "The Announcement"s an elite basketball player shall make in his life, the most significant will always be in close playoff games during the final minutes.
Last night we witnessed that James's style of play is slowly starting to transform itself into a dominating late game presence in the late stages of the NBA playoffs. From herein, it seems as if all "The Announcement"s James shall make will be on the basketball court.