2 guys, 2 histories, 2 games on the line — Who was #The1?
For one day at least, Tyler Ennis, a 19-year-old from Syracuse, stood toe-to-toe with LeBron James. Both ripped their foesâ hearts out with stunning buzzer-beaters. Re-live their moments, then decide which was best.
One is the greatest player on the NBA's reigning champs, who thinks he belongs on Mt. Rushmore. The other is a freshman point guard on the nation's top-ranked team, who registered nary a blip on the national radar when the Season of the Freshman tipped off.
But on Wednesday night, LeBron James and Tyler Ennis shared the sports spotlight, James reminding us why he is still The King of the NBA, Ennis letting the world know the NCAA's top freshmen don't just wear white and blue — and keeping Syracuse's dream of an unbeaten season alive.
First came Ennis' moment, the shot that saved a perfect season — for now, at least. With the top-ranked Syracuse trailing at rival Pittsburgh virtually the entire game, Ennis sank a pair of free throws to give the Orange a 55-54 lead with 10.8 seconds to play. Game over, signature moment in the bag, right? It looked like it, until the 25th-ranked Panthers got a pair of free throws from Talib Zanna with 4.4. seconds to go to re-take the lead 56-55. Turns out 4.4 seconds is enough time for the ice-cold Ennis, who took the inbounds pass, dribbled up the court and, 35 feet from the basket, had the option of hitting an open Trevor Cooney for a potential game-winner or taking the shot himself.
And this is what happened:
"I saw someone ran over to Trevor and I just had to beat one guy," Ennis told The Associated Press. "I knew they weren't going to let Trevor get it. I just had to get some space. I knew I could get open for a second."
Hopefully the 19-year-old enjoyed the national spotlight, because just a few hours after Ennis became the night's leading story, James let everybody know that, even if Kevin Durant wins the NBA's MVP Award this season, the current MVP still resides in Miami:
You see, the Heat also faced a deficit with the clock winding down, this one in Oakland, with the Golden State Warriors leading 110-108.
Dwyane Wade was out with injury, and Stephen Curry converted a three-point play to give the Warriors a lead with 14.6 remaining in a game they trailed by as much as 21 in the third quarter. But instead of calling a timeout, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra left the ball — and the game — in LeBron's hands.
And this happened:
Along with the 111-110 win, James finished with 36 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists, showing why he has four NBA MVPs to his credit, though Durant and his NBA-best 31.2 points per game and habit of putting up 30-point games seem headed for the award this season.
"I was going for the win the whole time," James said after the game.
And Spoelstra, after talking with his team following the game, admitted not calling timeout worked out, but wasn't exactly breathing easy as the seconds ticked away with his star player bouncing the ball on the hardwood.
"I just told them in the locker room that if I had realized he was going to work that thing all the way down to the end of the clock, I would have ran out there and screamed timeout," Spoelstra told The Associated Press. "I tried to design something but once he started to wind it up I decided I better not break his rhythm and let a great player make a great play, make or miss, and that's what he did."