“Baaaaaaaang!! Tie game with 5 seconds remaining!” The shot that those words accompanied is hands down the biggest play in all of sports in 2013. Actually, let’s transcend that notion and make the claim for it being the most significant shot in the NBA in the last 15 years. As Ray Allen squared up to launch a potentially championship saving three pointer, little did he know there was so much more at stake. How about shouldering the legacy of his superstar teammate? So when that ball soared through the hoop to the delight of the 50,000 roaring fans drenched in white, Michael Jordan certainly had to relinquish the throne of player with recent most impactful basket in the NBA. That now belongs to the most heralded three-point shooter of all time. Ironically, it’s LeBron James who reaped the most benefit. So as we embark into the new year, I found it necessary to delve into the scenario if Allen’s right wrist had released the ball slightly off mark.
Shout out to Mike Breen for one of the best play by play calls I have ever experienced!
If the Heat locker room was immersed with devastation and grim silence after Game 6 as opposed to champagne following Game 7, the narrative would have taken a vastly different course. James’ two turnovers in the last minute that led to a couple of Manu Ginobili appearances at the charity stripe would have become a 4 course meal for the media. The perception that James did not possess the mental resolve necessary to guide his team to an illustrious title would certainly have been at the forefront of news articles all across the nation. James’ jump shot would have faced tremendous scrutiny as well. The Spurs were willing to allow LeBron beat them via the mid range and the three point shot by playing well off of him. Popovich never altered his defensive strategy against the Miami small forward since James did not convert enough jump shots to instill fear in the San Antonio coaching staff. These two aspects would have intertwined when James missed a potential game-tying three point shot with 15 seconds remaining. Every clanked mid to long range attempt that James had this season would have been proceeded by the media’s disapproval of James’ ascent to one of basketball’s greatest to have ever sported a NBA jersey. The fans’ demeaning nickname “LeBrick” would have strongly persisted, more than ever. But his game wouldn’t have been the only thing that had to endure constant questioning.
Currently, James’ free agent status seems as close to a done deal as can be. There doesn’t appear to be another organization with cap space this upcoming offseason that can offer LeBron the type of stability, personnel, and wherewithal to assemblequality pieces around James like the Heat can (As an avid Laker supporter, I really wish I could say otherwise). There would have been plenty of skepticism over that notion if Allen’s shot bounced off the rim. With Dwyane Wade’s knees becoming more of a liability as the days progress and the rest of the pieces aging drastically, most analysts would have wondered if Miami had it in them to spark another legitimate title run. Adding fuel to the fire would be Indiana’s transcendence to a title contender and Russell Westbrook’s return from knee injury accompanied by the emergence of Jeremy Lamb and Reggie Jackson which propels the Thunder back into the mix as well. Rather than the acceptance a two time champion has earned, the Heat would have had to deal with a negative buzz much like that of the tiny insects release by the game makers on Katniss and Peeta in the Hunger Games following the sort of losses Miami had against Boston and Sacramento. That would have caused the increase of the volume of the ‘LeBron is taking his talents elsewhere’ chatter. Boy does this year seem quiet in comparison.
I understand that there was an overtime period and an entire game to be played following that miraculous Allen shot. Yet that basket seemed to permanently tip the momentum in favor of the incumbent. It continues to give me chills every time I watch Norris Cole erupt on the bench and Dwyane Wade swing his hands up in the air in immense relief. Whether one’s allegiances lied with Miami or San Antonio during that classic NBA Finals, it has to be impossible to not cherish and value the magnitude of that three pointer. It will definitely be a story I will narrate to my kids. Hopefully they listen!