It was the stuff of layup lines and slam-dunk contests, except it was real and it was spectacular.
If, after eight trips to the NBA Finals, you still were waiting for LeBron James to deliver a basket that will be remembered when he has long since been enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame, he threw it down Wednesday night in Game 3 of his ninth Finals.
Stranded near the foul line with no inviting options to pass available and the shot clock lapsing, and with 6-11 JaVale McGee dissuading him from shooting a jump shot, James twisted underneath McGee's arm to find room for what looked like a desperate shot.
That's not what he had in mind. James saw a clear lane to the goal, so he slammed it high off the backboard, soared in to grab the rebound and slammed it home in one motion.
All angles of The King in #PhantomCam! #WhateverItTakes #NBAFinals pic.twitter.com/WxJ2XQAWrn- NBA (@NBA) June 7, 2018
He has done this before. He did it in regular-season games with the Heat. He did it last year, in Game 4 of the Finals. None was as picturesque as this, and none occurred in such a crucial game.
This was a play that will live for LeBron the way Dr. J's swoop and MJ's switch has for those legends.
In the 1980 Finals against the Lakers, 76ers superstar Julius Erving drove the right side hunting a layup and found his path blocked, as he jumped, by burly Mark Landesberg. Dr. J stretched the ball out behind the backboard as he floated along the baseline, trying to find something useful to do with the ball. As he floated, 7-2 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar closed off the near side of the basket. So Doc kept floating, brought the ball around to the other side of the basket, reached in front and twisted it off the board and in.
Jordan's play came in the 1991 Finals and immediately dazzled, even though it never entirely made sense. He was jetting down the right side of the lane after accepting a pass from Cliff Levingston, and it looked as though he was going to deliver a one-handed power slam. Jordan caught a glimpse of Sam Perkins starting to make a move to block it, though, so Jordan merely switched hands - and direction - floating to the left side and banking the ball off the board and in.
The Bulls were up big in Game 2, and that basket might have been what convinced the Lakers they had no chance in the series.
Now LeBron has a play to match those.
Or maybe it was better.
Anyone want to have that argument?