- Ezra Shaw/Getty
For the second game in a row, LeBron James put in a superhuman effort to carry the Cleveland Cavaliers to a win in the NBA Finals, tying the series 3-3.
Facing elimination two games in a row, James has poured in two straight 40-point games while flirting with triple doubles. In the meantime, he’s dictated every aspect of the game, scoring at will from the inside and outside, finding open teammates, grabbing loose balls, and emphatically protecting the Cavs’ basket.
LeBron is putting together a historic performance on the biggest stage, and because of him, the Cavs have a chance to win the Finals in a decisive Game 7 in Oakland on Sunday.
The effort has left James’ teammates in awe. As Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski noted, after a 41-point, eight-rebound, 11-assists effort in a Game 6 win, both Kyrie Irving and J.R. Smith had one word for the performance: “Unbelievable.”
35-year-old wing Richard Jefferson, a 15-year veteran in the NBA, had a different way of put what James is doing into context.
“Not many people in the history of sports have said, ‘Everyone get on my back.’ The city, state, organization, team … ‘Get on my back. If we win or fail, I’ll take the blame – but I’m going to lead you.’ How many people have ever said that? I can’t think of too many players who have put that type of pressure on themselves and then have delivered more times than not. And he embraces it … That’s a pressure that I know I couldn’t personally handle.”
Jefferson is an accomplished player, whose been in the Finals before (but never won). He’s been around the NBA for years, yet he is awestruck by what LeBron is doing.
An unfortunate narrative follows LeBron about his performances on big stages. Because of his 2-5 record in the Finals, many feel he often fails to show up and carry his team to wins. He’s proving otherwise this postseason again. After single-handedly willing a broken Cavs team to a 2-1 series lead in last year’s Finals, James has again showed up and kept the Cavs alive. He’s gotten more help this time around, namely from Kyrie Irving, butt there’s no question he’s been the best player on the floor in these Finals.
According to Jefferson, just as crucially, LeBron has taken on a leadership role on this Cavs team.
James isn’t shying away from the pressure, and if the Cavs can become the first team to come back from a 3-1 deficit to win the NBA Finals, James’ performance will be one for the history books.