Five years ago, LeBron James had a legacy-defining performance in a must-win game
It feels like every season LeBron James faces a legacy-defining game in which his pursuit of Michael Jordan’s stature is hanging in the balance. This year is no different with the Cleveland Cavaliers facing a 2-0 hole against the Golden State Warriors with a virtual must-win Game 3 on Wednesday.
But five years ago to the day, James was staring down his make-or-break moment. It was before the three rings. It was Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Boston Celtics and his Miami Heat were down 3-2.
James’ infamous comments at Miami's ill-conceived pep rally that celebrated the Heat’s Big 3 were being thrown back in his face. He was coming off a disappointing Finals in which the heavily favored Heat lost to the Mavericks and now it looked like Miami wouldn’t get out of the East a year later.
It was a defining moment in his career, and he put on a performance for the ages. But we all should have seen it coming after taking one look at the intense focus on his face before the game began.
It was all downhill from there for the Celtics, who had no answers for King James despite playing in front of their fans. He went off for 45 points, 15 rebounds and five assists, hitting 19 of 26 shots from the floor in 45 minutes.
Only one other player on the Heat (Dwyane Wade) scored in double figures as Chris Bosh was limited due to an abdominal strain he suffered earlier in the playoffs. James converted everything from floaters to up-and-unders to fadeaway jumpers as he tormented Boston, which tried to stop him with a number of defenders but it was no use.
The Heat rolled past the Celtics 98-79 to tie the series at 3-3 and eventually eliminated Boston in Game 7. Miami would go on to beat the Thunder – and a 23-year-old Kevin Durant – in five games as James finally won that elusive title.