NBA

Is This Play the Defining Moment of LeBron James’ Career?

Recently, The Ringer’s Bill Simmons hosted ESPN’s Bill Windhorst to discuss “The Block” by LeBron James. The iconic moment in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals saw James block a shot by Andre Iguodala and help the Cleveland Cavaliers go on to win the championship. James himself calls it a “defining moment” in his career.

LeBron James’ 2016 NBA Finals

Windhorst described the final minutes of Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals between the Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors. Andre Iguodala had missed two free throws. When Kyrie Irving missed, Iguodala got the rebound. In what Windhorst called a brilliant play, Iguodala and Steph Curry were two-on-one against J.R. Smith.

Heading up the floor, Iguodala had Curry up ahead on the left. Smith was the only Cavalier defender in position and began to reverse toward his own basket. James came from the corner before the Warriors’ bench as Iguodala passed the middle of the court and threw a chest pass to Curry. With a bounce pass, Curry returned the ball to him.

Gathering the ball, Iguodala took two steps and muscled his way past Smith toward the hoop, going airborne. Smith on defense caused Iguodala to delay taking a shot by just a beat, double-pumping and floating the ball up to the basket. James had tracked the play all the way up the court. He sprung from behind, knocking the attempted layup off the glass with 1:50 left on the clock. Smith got the rebound and went back up the court.

“The Block” has been identified as the key moment in the game, leading to Cleveland’s victory. Many call it one of the best clutch defensive plays in the history of the NBA.

Windhorst thinks Cleveland should put up a statue the day after James retires, and the statue should depict the block. He points out that James is proud that his signature play was a defensive one.

The legacy of LeBron James

According to Windhorst, everyone knew it was an iconic moment when they saw it. It occurred so fast he knew the officials guessed what happened until they had a chance to review it. The outcome: One of the most talented players of his generation sprinted from the other side of the court to block a shot at the most crucial moment of the Cavs’ season.

It was the defining moment of James’ career. That single display of talent and athleticism, according to many, changed NBA history. In a Nike commercial featuring James, he referred to “The Block” as “the defining moment” of his career, too. The ad was called “Come Out of Nowhere” and addressed overcoming the odds to excel in life.

Immediately, CBS Sports called it one of the best plays in NBA Finals history. James was described as “Batman coming out of nowhere,” by Kevin Durant. Durant later said that if superhero James hadn’t made that play on the way to a title, he “damn sure” wouldn’t have formed a super team by joining the Warriors.

The win gave James his first NBA finals ring. Later, James told Cleveland.com that he wouldn’t give up on the play. He kept telling himself not to give up on the play, silently willing Smith not to foul Iguodala until he could get there. And he made it thinking “I can get it, I can get it.”

Other big moments in James’ NBA career

While “The Block” may have been a big moment in James’ career, it certainly wasn’t the only one. 

In the 2015 Eastern Conference Semis, the Cavs were only seconds from being down 3-1. David Blatt, former Cleveland coach, called a play for someone besides James to make a final shot. James changed his plans, calling his own number and smacking down a three-pointer to claim Game 4 for the Cavaliers in a memorable comeback.

James scored 29 of the Cavaliers’ 30 points in just over 16 minutes in Game 5 of the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals. He scored the team’s last 25 points, making 11 of 13 shots from the field. The forward forced an overtime situation with nine seconds left in the game, winning in double overtime with two seconds left and a driving layup.

While the Cavaliers eventually lost to the Magic in six games in 2009, that James won Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals with a contested three-pointer in front of his home crowd. The play was merely a preview of the future in playoff games for King James.

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