December 14, 2010
One of the things that makes basketball so exciting is its reliance on creativity. Whereas football players typically run carefully designed plays and baseball players play a game of very specific rules and regulations, basketball stars are often expected to create greatness from nothing, especially when the shot clock winds down. System and plays matter, but they're just the start, not the whole point of a possession.
LeBron James(notes) is a really great basketball player, so it shouldn't come as much of a surprise when he makes great plays late in the clock. But that's the thing about the best of the best -- they surprise you even when you think you've seen everything they can do. Case in point: the play highlighted above, in which LeBron shoots from an angle behind the backboard along the baseline to put the Heat up three points late in the third quarter.
There have been several other behind-the-backboard shots in recent years -- Kobe Bryant and Monta Ellis each had memorable ones, as did LeBron with the Cavs -- but LeBron's might be the best of the bunch. Kobe's undoubtedly had the highest degree of difficulty for the shot itself and Monta's earned him a foul shot, too. Yet those players made their shots within the flow of the play, whereas LeBron made his with the shot clock winding down after fumbling the ball into a tough position and turning towards the basket near the baseline. His reaction was instantaneous -- there was no time to set up the shot or plan his move. He had to make the play due to circumstances, and he pulled two points out of nowhere.