LeBron James has made a career out of making the right play.
Capable of lighting up the opposition for 40 or 50 points on any given night, James has consistently brought his teammates into critical moments, utilising his extreme gravity to create wide-open looks.
Late in game 5, another one of those moments came, this time with a fourth NBA championship within his grasp. Forget Lakers vs. Heat, the final few minutes had become LeBron vs. Jimmy as the two superstars went back-and-forth, trading baskets and the lead with the season on the line.
After Butler calmly drained two free throws, with 16.8 seconds left, Miami held a 109-108 advantage, giving the Lakers a chance at winning the title with the final shot. Given LeBron had already poured in 40 points on 15-for-21 shooting from the field and 6-for-9 from three it seemed a foregone conclusion he would be taking the final shot.
Instead, LeBron drove right to the basket, drawing as many as three Miami defenders to his body, before flinging a pass to the top the key where Danny Green found himself with all kinds of space and the title within his fingertips.
Please don't start that narrative about LeBron shooting to end the game. At this point we all know he makes the right play regardless of the moment.- DeAntae Prince (@DeAntae) October 10, 2020
And look at how open this dude was... pic.twitter.com/IS0U9yuTbt
Green missed the shot badly, and while the Lakers recovered the loose ball, Markieff Morris threw the ball away off the offensive rebound and Miami secured the victory.
"It's one of the best shots we could've gotten," LeBron commented postgame. "Danny had a hell of a look. I know he wish he could have it again, I wish I could make a better pass. You just live with it."
The decision to pass rather than shoot drew some criticism online, as many believe LeBron should have been the one to take the shot.
While the theatre of James winning the Championship on a game winner is poetic, the reality is that he more than anyone understands the importance of role players stepping up in moments of monumental proportions.
#1 | TOP 20 PLAYS of 2010s- NBA (@NBA) January 1, 2020
"The Miami Heat are still alive."
🔥 Ray Allen backpedals to the corner and ties Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals with 5.2 seconds remaining, saving MIA's championship season‼️ pic.twitter.com/1CF4LPdJ32
In Game 6 of the 2013 Finals it was Ray Allen who saved Miami's season against San Antonio.
In Game 7 of the 2016 Finals it was Kyrie Irving who hit arguably the biggest shot in NBA history.
What about the man James is chasing for the status of the greatest player of all-time, Michael Jordan?
It was John Paxson who nailed the go-ahead triple in the 1993 Finals to help lift the Bulls to the Championship.
In 1997, Steve Kerr stepped up to hit the game winning shot to win Jordan and the Bulls another title.
With scored tied in G6 of 1997 #NBAFinals, a double-teamed Michael Jordan feeds @SteveKerr to secure @ChicagoBulls' 5th title! #NBABreakdown pic.twitter.com/rkmaWxW018- NBA (@NBA) May 29, 2017
"They're vets, they're vets. I don't think too much needs to be said to them," James said of Green and Morris.
Lauded all season long for leading the league in assists for the first time, James single-handedly kept his team in a contest where they found themselves falling behind double-digits on multiple occasions.
Finishing with 40 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists, playoff game 259 was another classic for LeBron.
Could it have ended differently if he forced a shot over three defenders? Possibly, but that's not the way LeBron plays, and he, like Jordan understands the importance of role players coming up clutch when trying to secure the Larry O'Brien trophy.
Onto game 6 we go.
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