When a team’s leader is expected to step up, true leaders do just that.
If there was any lingering doubt about LeBron James being such a leader, it was answered in game six of this year’s 2013 NBA Finals. In willing the Miami Heat to a 103-100 overtime over the San Antonio Spurs, James created one of those great fourth quarter performances that become etched in finals history.
James scored 16 of his 32 points in the final quarter of regulation, helping the Heat erase a double-digit deficit and send the game into overtime. Two specific plays come to mind in showcasing how great of a quarter James had: his block of Tim Duncan and his three-pointer in the final seconds of regulation.
The block of Duncan was a big deal because of how much of a momentum builder strong blocks by James can be for the Heat. Also, it was about the fact that Duncan in the same situation over the course of this series would have dunked the ball without much resistance. James provided that resistance and a symbolic moment for his team: the block erased any last bits of doubt any Heat players may have had about whether or not they could complete their comeback. From that moment on, game six was all Heat minus the Spurs’ quick run near the end of regulation.
Speaking of that run: it unintentionally set up James’ big three-point shot. The run resulted in the Spurs up by five points with less than 30 seconds to play. James missed a good look three-point attempt only for the Heat to get one of their many offensive rebounds in the game and get the ball back to James for a second chance. James made the most of that second chance by sinking a three to put the Heat within two. This helped provide Ray Allen with the opening to tie the game moments later with a three of his own, which he did.
It wasn’t just the 16 points that James provided in the fourth quarter that made this a tremendous bit of on-the-court leadership from him. It was the fact that James was impacting the game with his shooting, his physicality near the hoop, passing and with defense. He may have scored 16 of the Heat’s 30 fourth quarter points, but James had a hand in almost all of the Heat’s points in the final quarter. That is something that leaders of a team who are at the top of their game are expected to do.
Finally, it was the situation that made this quarter from James not only crucial to the Heat’s season, but crucial to James’ legacy as a player. This was the NBA Finals, game six, a repeat championship attempt at risk of slipping away and the Heat were down by 10 points to begin the final quarter of an elimination game. This is a scenario that has seen James play poor more often than not in his post-season career. However, recent history has shown that James has become more of a clutch performer and leader to his team. Tuesday night provided further evidence of that.