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Eastern Conference Finals - Game 2 Recap

Cleveland 96, Orlando 95 - Series tied, 1-1
 
Maybe the Orlando Magic will return home this weekend and take command of the Eastern Conference finals. It could well be that the jawdropping ending to Game 2 of this best-of-seven series will merely delay a celebration in the sun-drenched neighborhoods of north Florida.
 
Then again, the biggest play of an already-storied career just might allow the Cleveland Cavaliers to shake off their mental demons and romp to an NBA championship.
 
On an unforgettable night in Cleveland, a player kissed by the basketball gods and graced with uncommon instincts delivered the kind of dagger that doesn't ever leave the imprint of memory. In 20 years, when his career will likely be over, LeBron James will fondly recall one of the seminal moments in a journey that's almost certain to lead him to the Basketball Hall of Fame. Writers, broadcasters, and other chroniclers of King James' exploits in the world of professional basketball will use many words, spill ample ink, fill oceans of bandwidth, and exhaust hours of air time to document, describe, and assess the instant in which a 24-year-old man towered over the rest of his peers. If ever there was a time when the NBA had legitimate reason to think that a worthy successor to Michael Jordan had finally appeared, Friday night became that anointed hour.
 
It might be too premature--and unfair--to call LeBron a legend at this point in what is still a very young life, but one can legitimately say that the legend of LeBron--the mythical narrative enveloping this one-of-a-kind hoops icon--has begun to acquire epic proportions. Perhaps, given the lack of guarantees in life, the otherworldly nature of this conquering Cleveland Cavalier will fade away in the coming years, but after seeing how he ripped the hearts out of the bodies of every Magic coach, player, and executive with one flick of his right wrist, the diminishment of LeBron's career isn't something one should expect.
 
Not until he's 40 years old... and even that's not a sure bet.

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Does it sound weird, even foolish, to reduce a vigorously-contested, 48-minute basketball game to one play in the very last second of regulation time? On most nights, yes; but not when the leading actor is LeBron, and not when King James hits an improbable 3-pointer from the top of the key to save the best-in-the-league Cavs from a shocking 0-2 series deficit against the gallant, resourceful, and remarkably resilient Magic. After Hedo Turkoglu gave Orlando a 95-93 lead on a ballsy 16-footer with exactly one second left, it seemed that Stan Van Gundy's guys would fly back to Florida in complete control of the series. The snake-bitten sports town of Cleveland--without a world championship since the 1964 Browns won the NFL title--was about to descend into a deep and dark depression, while the hugely confident Magic, fresh from their manhood-making moment in Game 7 of the Boston series last Sunday, were ready to send the Cavs crashing out of the playoffs. Game 2 rarely offers an occasion for one team to deliver a knockout blow in a seven-game set, but when basketball (not hockey or baseball) is the sport, and a road team is about to take a 2-0 lead, it's reasonable to think that a deathbed moment is at hand. Nothing less than the Cavaliers' season rested on life support when Turkoglu's ice-veins jumper tickled the twine with a solitary tick on the clock at Quicken Loans Arena.
 
One tick, however, was all LeBron would need. A career replete with awe-inspiring long-distance shots--some of them in live action; others in 60 Minutes interviews and pregame warm-ups--acquired its most significant in-game accomplishment, a high-arcing rainbow that splashed through nylon after the final horn had sounded. The building exploded, while the Magic were left reeling, their insides gutted by the man who would be King. Ordinary players, even well-above-average performers, don't make that shot. Only an anointed one does, only a golden child, only a figure destined for a unique kind of greatness that dominates cultural conversations and holds the sports world under a prolonged spell.
 
Call it "The Shot Heard 'Round the NBA." Call it "LeBron's Rainbow." Call it "The King's Magic Disappearing Act." However you want to refer to it, this 3-pointer from LeBron James has become--without question--one of the most iconic plays in the history of professional basketball. Just how iconic will it ultimately prove to be? Now that's an interesting debate, a debate that will gain fuller form as LeBron's career unfolds... and as this exhilarating series heads to Orlando for a very fascinating Game 3 on Sunday evening at Amway Arena. 

 

By Matt Zemek
Pro-Basketball Fans staff-writer


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