It was, or appeared to be, a two-on-one fast break. The kind of fast break players practice over and over again. But this was the Game 7 of the NBA finals, and the result was anything but typical.
The Golden State Warriors‘ Stephen Curry and Andre Iguodala raced down the court, with Curry leading the break. The score was tied at 89, with just under two minutes to go. Caught between the NBA MVP of the last two regular seasons and last year’s Finals MVP, the Cleveland Cavaliers‘ J.R Smith played it intelligently: shaded a bit to Steph’s side, while sneaking a peek at Igoudala. Steph made a beautiful bounce pass to Iggy, forcing Smith to turn and slide over toward Iggy. But he didn’t have time to do anything but commit a foul. With the ball in his capable hands, Iguodala launched towards the rim for a simple layup that would have given the Warriors the lead. A lead near the end of a fourth quarter where each squad’s defenses had stepped up to deny scoring opportunities for what seemed an eternity. A fourth quarter, in a Game Seven, in which every point was precious.
But a fast break that developed in a matter seconds vanished in tenths of a second. LeBron James seemed to teleport into the paint, leaping to slam Igoudala’s shot against the glass, in a moment that instantly earned a place in Believeland lore and will go down in NBA history.
It was a denial issued by a man who would not be denied.
The Block was one of the best plays ever made, by the best player of his generation.
On a night where LeBron’s triple double leapt from the stat sheet, The Block was something no box score could ever give its due. In an NBA Finals in which he became the first ever to lead all players in scoring, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals, his signature moment was a combination of hustle, athleticism, timing, and sheer force of will. It’s why he’s still the King of the NBA, and it’s a moment we’ll gladly relive on video for generations to come.