Over the past year, NBA viewers have been treated with some of the greatest basketball they have seen in their lifetime.
I’m speaking of course of LeBron James, the league’s reigning league MVP, Finals MVP and NBA champion after leading his Miami Heat to a 4-1 series victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder. James took no time to relish in his NBA championship as he would depart for London to lead the United States basketball team to a second consecutive gold medal with a win over Spain.
Not since 1992 has anybody achieved those four accolades in the same season. The last person to do so? Michael Jordan. You may have heard of him.
We celebrate LeBron’s masterful season by observing the ten best moments of his historic 2012.
10. LeBron James receives League MVP and doesn’t care
After politics played too heavy a role in his MVP chances for the 2010-’11 season, LeBron James rightfully returned to is throne atop the NBA after winning his third league MVP in four seasons the very next year.
James played with a purpose throughout the season, showing obvious signs of motivation following his team’s loss in the 2011 NBA Finals. He showed improvement in his post-game and made it a purpose to facilitate the offense with his back to the basket, rather than his usual spot of starting from the top of the perimeter in an isolated setting. By moving to the post, James’ ability to facilitate was put on full display.
His offense also took considerable notice as he began defending larger positions, including power forward and even center, with tremendous success.
James averaged 27.1 points, 7.9 rebounds, 6.2 assists and 1.9 steals per, while shooting a career-high 53 percent from the field and 36 percent from deep. Upon receiving his MVP, however, James took a less-than-enthusiastic approach proclaiming, “I’d trade in all three of my MVP’s for one championship.”
We’ll get back to that.
9. Personal comeback against the New Jersey Nets
In a late-season outing with the New Jersey Nets, the Miami Heat had the look of a team that was disinterested in facing a dreadfully below-average team that was playing in an arena with their logo on the floor, yet was filled with ‘Let’s go Heat’ chants come fourth quarter.
Miami faced a deficit as large as 13 points late in the third quarter and were facing an 89-84 deficit 4:50 left. The Heat would end up winning 101-96. LeBron James was the only Heat player to score between the 84th and 101st point.
James scored the final 17 points for the Heat, including the go-ahead layup that occurred off an isolation play where he was defended by Kris Humphries. A few seconds later, James stretched the lead to two following a short jumper over Gerald Green.
Even if it was against the Nets, LeBron still put on a show for the ages and once again dispelled the idea that he wasn’t comfortable with playing in late-game situations.
8. Game 7 Dagger vs the Boston Celtics
Once again, it’s LeBron James making his critics look foolish with a big-time shot in a big-time situation.
Featured in the first Game 7 of the ‘Big Three’ era, James put on a stellar performance with 31 points and 12 boards. While he was assisted greatly by Chris Bosh and his 19 points and three three-pointers, it was James’ devastating 30-foot three-pointer over Brandon Bass that essentially ensured a ticket for a second consecutive NBA Finals appearance for his Heat.
James’ shot stretched an 88-84 lead with less than six minutes remaining to 91-84. The Celtics would never recover.
7. LeBron leads the Heat to a title, then leads his country to Gold
Games after saving the United States basketball team from the brink of disaster in a close win over Lithuania, it was LeBron James to the rescue in the team’s Gold Medal matchup with rival Spain.
Spain kept it close throughout, much like they did in 2008, but unlike ’08 when it was Kobe Bryant delivering daggers, it was James with two huge plays that represented the daggers leading to a second consecutive Gold Medal.
The Americans found themselves up 97-91 with 3:20 left. Over the next two possessions, James would convert a breakaway dunk that came as a result of miscommunication by Spain on defense, which was then followed up by a three-pointer over 7-footer Marc Gasol to give the Americans an insurmountable 102-93 lead.
6. 17-point fourth quarter against the Knicks
Outside of his 52-point outing, Game 3 against the New York Knicks may have been LeBron James’ greatest moment in Madison Square Garden.
The Heat were up 2-0 in their first-round series against New York and were in a defensive struggle against the Knicks in Game 3. Miami started out the fourth quarter up 58-56, knowing that a win would inevitably end the series and a loss would give hope to a Knicks team that had another home game awaiting in Game 4.
Instead, it was LeBron who ended up taking over. Scoring 17 points in the final frame, James led the Heat to an 87-71 win, giving the Heat an insurmountable 3-0 series lead.
5. Indiana…Game 4
40 points. 18 rebounds. 9 assists.
This, coming after a blowout loss in Game 3 and a home loss in Game 2. This, with the possibility of his team falling behind 3-1 in their second-round series. This, in a raucous environment in front of 18,000 enthusiastic Indiana Pacer fans.
LeBron James was ruthless in Game 4, leading his team to a 101-93 victory that featured some superb chemistry between James and Dwyane Wade in a third quarter that featured Miami’s comeback from a halftime deficit. Together, they ended up scoring 38 consecutive Heat points.
The Heat would end up winning Game 5 in a blowout, before winning the series back in Indiana in Game 6 behind Wade’s 41. None of it is possible without LeBron James having a statline that had not been seen since Elgin Baylor did it in 1961.
4. LeBron jumps over John Lucas III
No explanation necessary.
3. LeBron hits the shot of his career against Oklahoma City
Disney couldn’t have written a better ending than the one LeBron James wrote in the final minutes of Game 4 of the NBA Finals.
Following leg cramps that forced him out, long enough for the Oklahoma City Thunder to come charging back, James returned to the court with an obvious limp. However, limp or no limp, James was the Heat’s best player and he was needed on the floor at the time.
With the game tied at 94 apiece and three minutes remaining, James found himself isolated with Thabo Sefolosha defending him and the shot-clock at seven seconds. Containing no ability to drive at the time, LeBron had the stones to take and convert the straightaway three-pointer to give the Heat a 97-94 lead.
James would take one more shot before heading out. Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers would then take over, giving the Heat a victory and a 3-1 series lead.
2. The King finally gets his ring
You couldn’t help but smile with LeBron when he was dancing on the sidelines–something that we have criticized far too many times in the past–throughout the fourth quarter of Game 5.
With the game well in hand, thanks to Mike Miller’s 7-of-8 shooting from deep, James spent the entire fourth quarter on the bench. Rather than the ending we had envisioned of James breaking down into tears after finally winning that elusive first title, viewers were greeted with the joyous, fun-loving All-Star they have come to know. LeBron’s fourth quarter was composed of bouncing up-and-down, as well as hugging his teammates and coaches.
Upon receiving the trophy, James’ desire and ambition is put on full display when his eyes turn into saucers as he grasps the trophy before embracing it.
“It’s about damn time”.
1. Boston…Game 6
When you have a statline that’s comparable to something Wilt Chamberlain did five decades ago, chances are that you had yourself quite the outing.
Well, that’s what LeBron James had in the biggest game of his NBA career. Facing a 3-2 deficit in the unfriendliest of confines, known to everyone else as TD Garden, James and the Heat were a game away from seeing their championship run cut short for a second consecutive season. Miami had lost the last three games to Boston and morale was low after a devastating loss in Game 5.
With a season and a legacy on the line, LeBron made it a purpose to do everything he could so that he would be the last person to get blamed for a Heat loss. On the way to doing so, James led the Heat to a convincing 97-78 blowout in front of a Boston Celtics crowd that featured half the stadium leaving midway through the fourth quarter.
James’ legendary statline: 45 points, 15 rebounds, 5 assists.