Listen, LeBron James: We understand why you're never going to enter the Slam Dunk Contest.
You're the biggest star in the basketball world and you've got more to lose by entering the contest than anyone; because the hype's been built up for so many years, if you don't do something absolutely transcendent and blow everybody's minds with perfect first-try brilliance, you might actually come out of it looking a little worse than when you went in. You're going to be performing in All-Star Weekend's main event for pretty much the rest of time and don't feel like working on Saturday if you don't have to. Your Miami Heat have bigger fish to fry in the second half of the season and you don't want to risk getting injured in the competition. And so on, and so on. We get it.
But the more you do stuff like this, at the 35-second mark of a video taken during the Miami Heat's pregame layup/dunk lines before taking on the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday, the harder it makes it to think you're doing anything other than trolling us:
Yeah, that's LeBron jumping at the left elbow, putting the ball between his legs, switching hands and throwing it off the backboard in one motion, then going up from between the circles to corral and hammer it with one hand. Somehow, the videographer's "OH-HO-HO-OHHHHH, WHAT!?!?!?!?" scarcely seems to do it justice.
Once he'd suitably warmed up, James opened the game with a Kevin Garnett-inspired flourish and a finish all his own:
... reminded us he's also pretty good at passes thrown not between his legs to himself, but rather in the air to cutting teammates like Dwyane Wade:
... and showed he's appreciative of friends, like Wade, who return the favor:
... but still occasionally prefers to do it himself.
That was all in the first nine minutes of the game.
James finished the first quarter with eight points, two assists and a steal; by half, he had 18 on 7 for 10 shooting, and Miami had opened an 18-point lead on the Cavs. But after pushing the advantage to 22 early in the third, the Heat went cold while Cleveland warmed up, with Kyrie Irving and C.J. Miles combining for 21 points in the frame — Miles' 11 came in just 2:50 of playing time — to spark a pair of runs, including a 15-2 rip late in the quarter, that had the Heat trailing by a point entering the fourth and by seven midway through the fourth.
From there, though, Wade took over, scoring 11 points on a perfect 5 for 5 mark in the final five minutes, including a dunk after an offensive rebound of a missed James layup with just 24.4 seconds left that put Miami up two possessions. They'd hold on for a 109-105 win.
"Hey, I'm a smart player. That's what basketball IQ is all about," James said with a smile after the game, according to Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press. "I have no idea how I blew that layup. But it did work out for us. Got an extra possession, D-Wade was able to turn the corner and get a slam."
It wasn't nearly as pretty as the pregame 50 thrown down by James, who finished with 28 points on 10 for 19 shooting, eight assists, three rebounds and two turnovers in 39 minutes, but it was timely and effective enough to send the Heat to their fourth win in five nights, their league-leading 11th straight overall and their 17th in the last 20 games, pushing their East-leading record to 40-14, six games clear of the second-place Indiana Pacers.
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