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Ball Don't Lie

Marvel at the LeBron James game-winner on the Phantom Cam (Video)

Eric Freeman
Ball Don't Lie

In the immediate aftermath of Wednesday night's bonkers Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers, discussion has focused on the failings of Pacers head coach for not having center Roy Hibbert in the game to protect the rim on LeBron James's game-winning, buzzer-beating lay-up. Analysis has covered how LeBron was able to finish so easily, various alternate realities in which Vogel did put Hibbert on the floor, and the Pacers' own reaction to the situation. Even those who have provided some explanation of Vogel's decision-making process — or at least argued that he was choosing between a bunch of insufficient options — have discussed the issue in terms of how Indiana was to contend with the Heat in this scenario.

This approach makes a great deal of sense, because Hibbert is one of the NBA's top defenders and just recently stonewalled Carmelo Anthony on a dunk attempt. Yet, while digging into the Pacers' side of the play is eminently reasonable, it also ignores the most readily apparent fact of the game-winner, which is that LeBron James did something really incredible.

Thankfully, we have the NBA's Phantom Cam to help us focus on LeBron's exploits. The clip is bereft of context — it's entirely LeBron making his move. The lack of perspective communicates the visceral experience: James catches, turns, dribbles, explodes, and finishes. No Pacers can stop him, because he is a unique basketball force.

This angle is obviously just one view of the play, and everyone who has explained the larger context of the Pacers' decision has touched on many important aspects of the moment. Yet, in stating LeBron's ability to make this basket as a given, we're ignoring just how ridiculous these abilities are. With 2.2 seconds on the clock, LeBron is likely the only player in the NBA who could and would choose to turn and drive with enough time to get an open lane to the hoop (even if the man himself doesn't think it's that special). It's an ability we're used to seeing in NFL running backs (with cleats!), not on a basketball court. Rationalizing the decisions of the opponent can only get you so far. The best approach isn't always a solution to a problem as daunting as LeBron James.

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