LeBron James indicates where he ranks among the world's best players. (Getty Images)
During the NBA playoffs, more media members cover each game than you can stuff into already crowded locker rooms. To make things easier, postgame chats with each contest's top performers are conducted in a separate interview room, up on a stage, with spotlights shining on the athletes and cameras carrying every question and answer to the fans at home. Only a select few ballers take part in these postseason Q&A sessions — if you're one of them, you just had what's called a "podium game."
In the Olympics, of course, "podium" carries a slightly different meaning. At the end of each day of hoops competition in London, we'll bridge the gap between the two, celebrating those performers who shone for their national teams, helped their squads get closer to the medal stand, or both. This is Podium Games.
The gold goes to ... LeBron James of the United States. At the risk of belaboring a point I made in some detail after Wednesday's quarterfinal win over Australia, James' all-around game is just ridiculously sharp right now, giving coach Mike Krzyzewski so much flexibility in setting his lineup and continually making the game easier for whichever teammates he winds up alongside. The versatility was on display again in Team USA's 109-83 semifinal victory over Argentina, as James did a bit of everything to keep the U.S. on time and on target.
While designated scorers Kevin Durant (a game-high 19 points on 7-of-14 shooting, including a 5-of-10 mark from 3-point range), Carmelo Anthony (18 points off the bench, also on 7 of 14, and 4 of 8 from deep) and Kobe Bryant (13 points, 11 of which came in the first quarter, on 3 of 6 from distance) each took their turns bombing from beyond the arc, James again went to work both in the trenches. He had two defensive rebounds and an assist before he attempted his first shot, and with just over two minutes left in the first quarter, added a trademark chase-down block, literally jumping over Anthony to erase a Carlos Delfino layup.
Read More »from LeBron as multiplier, Jose’s perfect timing, Love’s effort rewarded and thanks, Argentina: Friday’s Podium Games