NBA: LeBron, Popovich Refuse to Call Last Year’s Championship ‘Lucky’

Source: Keith Allison, Flickr

While everyone in love with pro basketball waits anxiously for the clock to strike 8 p.m. San Antonio Time (that’s 9 p.m. on the East Coast, 6 p.m. on the West, and 7 p.m. Mountain Time, just so no one’s left out), it’s impossible not to go back through the 2013 NBA Finals with a fine-toothed comb, looking at exactly what went which team’s way in order to glean some kind of insight into what might go down in this year’s series. We’re hoping it will be a more than worthy successor to last year’s games for the ages.

When 2013 falls under the microscope, it’s impossible to overlook ‘that shot.’ The one from Game 6. How unlikely was it that the Heat would be able to come back from five points down with under half a minute to go? Surely that falls under the general jurisdiction of luck, right? Since that was the game that swung the entire series, you could say that the Heat won their second title by the skin of their teeth, right?

“I can’t sit here and lie to you, we do [feel slighted],” LeBron James told reporters yesterday. “It wasn’t like it was 3-0 and they had us in Game 4 and we took it and won four straight. If you look at the numbers — look at the numbers — the lead changes, the ties and the points in that series, it’s almost even.” James — who bricked a three point shot that careened wildly off the glass and somehow evaded Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard to wind up in Dwyane Wade’s hands, but also buried another one to cut the lead — would finish that game with a triple double, a final box score of 32 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists. It’s no wonder he takes affront to the idea that it was lucky.

Popovich, who opened this season with a seven hour video session over the loss, feels similarly to James. “It wasn’t just one shot. It was 29 seconds.” Why the footage? “I didn’t want anybody going into the season thinking, ‘Oh, gosh, we got screwed, the basketball gods took one away from us.’”

Go ahead. Watch it again. Then realize that Ray Allen practices that exact shot. Seriously. Sports Illustrated‘s Lee Jenkins wrote an excellent piece about that shot and nestled within it is this explanation. “As a young player in Milwaukee, Allen invented a drill in which he lies in the key, springs to his feet, and backpedals to the corner. A coach throws him a pass. He has to catch and shoot without stepping on the three-point line or the sideline.” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra asked Allen about it, and Ray told him he’d invented it for offensive rebounding situations — because of course.

“We’re thankful for Ray Allen making that shot, but there were so many other things that had to play right for us to win that game.” Dwyane Wade said, splitting the difference, “So you need a little luck, both ways, even to be in the Finals. We were a recipient of luck in that [Game 6] moment, but we won the championship.” Fair enough.