By LeBron James (or a facsimile thereof)
First and foremost, I’d like to thank the good people at seveneighteen for giving me the opportunity to write this piece. After all, a 2 for $20 dinner day at Applebee’s is too hard to pass up, no matter how rich you are.
I’m on my way to Boston after as I write this, hopefully for two more games only. Good win by us yesterday, although those old bastards gave us a hell of a game… well actually, it was the young bastard Rondo (when did he grow that jump shot?) but nevertheless, they took us damn near to the wire in OT.
Yes, yes, I know what you’re thinking… if I had hit the shot in regulation there is no overtime, which is true. And I can’t wait for Skip Bayless to tear me a new one on First Take today, saying I can’t close, or Wade shoulda taken the shot, blah blah blah.
I usually ignore that garbage, because I know I can close. I’ve done it plenty of times. However, the pressure and ridicule I received about this subject comes from one game where not only did I close it out, I closed it out in exemplary form.
That game was five years ago today: Game 5 of the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals. Playing for the Cavs, I scored 29 of our last 30 points to beat the Pistons, including the final 25 in the 4th quarter and overtime.
You may know it as The 48 Special. I call it The Gift & The Curse.
Don’t get me wrong, I recognize where that performance ranks in playoff history. Shit, Steve Kerr called it “Jordan-esque.” I also recognize, though, that my performance in that game raised my expectations to Jordan-esque levels. “Wait, LeBron can do that? Oh it’s over for the rest on the league!”
What also doesn’t help matters is that game propelled us to the Finals. (Yeah, I know that was Game 5, but Detroit was done after that. They didn’t want to take the court for Game 6, I could see it in their eyes. When Rasheed Wallace got ejected in that game, that was more self-euthanization than anything). And look, I love those guys, but I had to be on my A game every single night for us to even have a chance to win… and in 2008, we did that 66 times.
And trust me, they weren’t all 20-point blowouts.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, the 48 Special is purely in my capabilities. But 1. It’s not happening every game and 2. It’s just not who I am. At my core, I’m an unselfish player. I value the better shot, the smarter basketball play, over this “Hero Ball” crap that’s permeated the league.
So when Mario Chalmers takes the last shot against the Pacers in Game 2, it’s not that I am afraid to close or can’t close, it’s because we as a team recognize that it’s the smartest basketball play. Mario has hit big threes for us down the stretch over the years, and he’s a better three-point shooter than myself or Dwyane… why not him?
And over the years, after every loss where I either didn’t take the shot or missed the potential game-winner (or game-tying shot) and the avalanche of criticism starts to flow, I ask myself why does this always happen.
Then I remember the 48 Special and it all comes back to me.
I can’t close. Ha. Y’all musta forgot.