THE MOMENT — Thursday, January 21, 2010 …The Cleveland Cavaliers lead the L.A. Lakers, 89-87, with 23.4 seconds left in the game. Coming out of a timeout, the Cavs have the ball. A sold-out home crowd remain on their feet as the league’s reigning MVP takes the ball from out of bounds. Eyes stay fixed on The King.
Now, we’re gifted in hindsight with the knowledge that this game is already locked up; the Cavs go on to win 93-87. But I’m pretty sure LeBron James had that same feeling back then, which is why when Eminem’s song “Forever” plays over the speakers, he sings along…
In a time when debates as to who was the game’s best player proved to be more relevant, LeBron bested Kobe Bryant in shooting — outscoring him 37 to 33 — and The King’s Cavs moved to a record of 33-11 while The Mamba’s Lakers fell to 32-10.
Just look at the faces of the people in the crowd behind him. These aren’t the same fans as the ones in South Beach who would one day show up late to see him play or who would wait until the day of to purchase tickets for a series-clinching playoff game. These fans adore him.
He is the second-coming of Michael Jordan.
He’s a fairy-tale. “The local kid who made it to the top of the world and did it without ever leaving town.” And what this moment does is remind us that once upon a time, LeBron was likable; much more so than Kobe.
The feeling around the Quicken Loans Arena that night was clear: this is a place with many championships ahead. The Cleveland Cavaliers made it to the NBA Finals once before with The King and they’ll do it again. Only next time they’ll win.
This is, quite possibly, LeBron James at the peak of his powers. What a moment it was.