The career of LeBron James has been marked equally by amazing moments and considerations of his place in basketball history. For the most part, those takes have been negative (or at least questioning), putting LeBron's accomplishments in relation to what he hasn't done. At various times, James has failed to meet expectations in clutch moments, passed off scoring responsibility, and just generally not been Michael Jordan. It's been annoying, at times, and also a little accurate. More often than not, it's eclipsed the basketball.
In Thursday night's Game 7 of the NBA Finals against the San Antonio Spurs, James answered most every question that could possibly be asked of him. He even came up with what will soon be known (for now) as the defining moment of his four appearances in the league's championship round.
With approximately 30 seconds on the clock and the Heat up 90-88, James dribbled to his right, took a bump from Tony Parker, and rose over the closing Kawhi Leonard to knock down a long two-pointer with 27 seconds left. It effectively ended one of the most thrilling games imaginable and sealed Miami's second consecutive title. James added two free throws on the Heat's next possession to bring his total to 37 points on 12-of-23 shooting from the field, 5-of-10 from beyond the arc, and 8-of-8 from the charity stripe (plus 12 rebounds, four assists, and two steals). He was the most obvious reason for the Heat's 95-88 win.
The shot wasn't as dramatic as Michael Jordan's 1998 winner over Bryon Russell or various other jumpers from NBA Finals lore, but that doesn't make it any less impressive. The Spurs made a point of forcing James (and Dwyane Wade) into jumpers whenever possible, and in Game 7 he made them pay with an extremely impressive shooting performance. If shooting is a gap in his game, then it's a relative one.
In Game 6 and Game 7, LeBron responded to his critics by dominating the game at its most critical moments. At this point, those who question his ability are attempting to place judge a player still finding his place in the historical record. Everyone else has witnessed a generationally exceptional, uniquely fascinating athlete with a near-limitless supply of talent. We should all consider ourselves lucky to watch him.