It is the shot that everyone will remember. Only the shot. That’s how legends are built, how highlight reels are constructed, how our collective memory works. We’ll remember the shot. LeBron James, taking the inbounds pass from Matthew Dellavedova in the corner, with 1.5 seconds left. LeBron James, rising up and flicking the ball over Jimmy Butler’s left hand, through the United Center haze, following a perfect line to the net. Roar. Buzzer. Gasp. Silence. Game.
A championship run was drifting away from the Cleveland Cavaliers, and they were seemingly too depleted, too gimpy, too off-kilter to do much about it. With one wrist flick, James changed everything, delivering an 86-84 victory and tying this second-round series with the Bulls at 2-2. When it was over, James strutted toward the locker room, a yellow towel around his neck, looking like a prize fighter who had just knocked out his prey. “YEAH! YEAH!” James whooped. “HUNH!!!”
It’s the shot we’ll remember, yes. But we should add a dozen footnotes to this particular chapter of the LeBron legend because, as with many such moments, it very nearly didn’t happen at all. The final play, as initially drawn up by coach David Blatt, featured James as the inbounder. James was hardly an attractive option, having missed 20 of his prior 29 shots on this afternoon.
For three days, this city had The Shot and The Shot II—Michael Jordan’s signature shots against the Cavaliers—playing on a near-constant loop on local television and on the arena scoreboard, as if to taunt Cleveland with every painful memory. On Friday night, Rose added another, a banked three-pointer at the final buzzer. The Clutch Shot to Win a Crucial Playoff Game ledger may forever be in Chicago’s favor, but on Sunday afternoon, LeBron James put a large notch on Cleveland’s side of the board.
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