Did you ever get what you want? Exactly what you wanted? Death row-level final meal, without the life sentence? Free German car, without the tax frustrations? Roomful of puppies and a cable TV connection? A Sunday night all to yourself? LeBron James quickly moving into smart post-up situations, squaring his shoulders and using his length, athleticism, smarts and touch to pile up points after points so that the stupid idea of the fourth quarter meaning more than the other three quarters doesn't matter because a game that LeBron James is in doesn't matter by the fourth quarter because of all the awesome stuff LeBron James just did?
Any of those?
We asked for it, and we got it. And not in some Game 2, at home, against a team James' squad should be handily defeating. Not in a Tuesday night League Pass setting in late winter against an eventual lottery participant. Nup, we got what we wanted in a contest that could have been the last game of LeBron's season. Although, Game 2 on May 2 or Game 32 on February 2 or June 7 in a do-or-go away Game 6, the ramifications hardly seem to matter at this point. All we can remember, a day later, is how brilliant James was.
Ignore the noble nonsense. Ignore the context. Focus on the game, regardless of uniform or date or that little ticker at the bottom that used to say "Boston leads, 3-2." This was the game we've been waiting for. It bore no resemblance to the big scoring outbursts in James' history, including his remarkable run against the Detroit Pistons all the way back in 2007, a contest that sent Detroit so off-kilter that it basically stopped competing towards the end of what was a close fourth quarter.
No, this is what we've been begging James to do ever since guys like me first started taking in criticism for criticizing James in spite of his fantastic play years ago. My first shot to that respective bow happened in the 2006 playoffs, when James led a terrible Cleveland Cavaliers team to within a game of the Eastern Conference finals, scoring in a desperate and inefficient manner along the way. Fantastic results, I remarked on an old website, but the dude has to stop scoring off of long jumpers or one-on-one drives if he wants to put Detroit away. I got killed for it, and worst of all James kept it up. Long shots, obvious drives, and the Pistons took two in a row on their way to the next round.
It's been the same ever since. Plenty of big scoring games, but nothing achieved in any way that was sustainable — because James did it the hard way. And at some point, nearly a decade into his pro career, even the ridiculous notion that a wasted season spent at some famous college would have helped, the footwork seemed to wash away. For someone that made basketball look so easy, James seemed (and seems, really, up until Thursday) to insist on doing it the hard way.
Save for Game 6.
And what was Game 6? Post-ups. O, post-ups, you make Kelly a happy boy.
(Yes, I'm a dude.)
Post-ups, and squared shoulders. Quick flashes to the strong side, an entry pass, and a realization that sometimes pro basketball is best after one pass. If it works for the gents at the 6:30 run at the YMCA, why can't it work for a 6-9 guy with a big butt and a smile? Why can't it work for James, devastating an opponent's season just 15 feet from a basket? If it worked for Michael Jordan even before a summer spent shagging flies took his legs away, why can't a quick post-up and turnaround jumper aid his hoped-for successor on his way toward his first title?
Why not continue to post up, square your shoulders, and swish away? Why not do the same thing in the second quarter that worked so well in the first? Or the third? And why not make the fourth quarter a non-issue, as Doc Rivers checks Ryan Hollins in?
Plaudits and applause and Twitter fawning aside, hours later let's just remind ourselves that this was everything we've ever asked for. Even if it happened against the Sacramento Kings, in February, we'd be giddy. Warm in the realization that, even though it took way too long, LeBron gets it.
He doesn't have to dunk over Piston after Piston. He doesn't have to pull up for 3-pointer after 3-pointer. It doesn't have to be that unsustainable, either/or way of scoring.
You just flash to the strong side, gather a bounce pass, realize that you're stronger and/or taller (or both!) than your defender, and use that athleticism to create space as you jump slightly backwards. On your way up into the sky, you square your shoulders, release, and follow through.
It's as sustainable as a government-financed field of corn. Sometimes it's as boring, while the punters pine for those dunks and 3-pointers. It wins games, though. It's able to be relied upon in a Game 7, on Saturday, or next February against those same Sacramento Kings.
Even if LeBron forgets this, in the hours between Game 7 or next February, he's still a champion in our eyes just for that brief realization. In a game that fields five to a side and depends on the help of too many (on a team that, when working the five-man game, just doesn't have the personnel to make a championship come easy) to secure a victory even in the smallest of settings, James took over in the Complete and Absolute Right Damn Way. And as a fan, shaking my head as I write a day later, I can't help but thank him for that.
Post up, square your shoulders. In the end, after a lifetime of gravity-defying exploits and bombs from 25 feet away, James' greatest achievement may have been reminding us of why we love watching and playing this game so damn much.