On Monday night, the Cavs and the Wizards played, and it was a very good game marked by a very excellent moment: With 3.4 seconds left, Kevin Love, the archangel of the outlet pass, grabbed the ball following a made free throw, then chest-passed it some 75 feet to LeBron James, who caught it and did an amazing thing. That amazing thing — a falling-out-of-bounds 3 that tied the game with 0.3 seconds left — made for a great highlight video. But it made for an even better photograph:
There is a saying, and I’m sure you’re familiar with it because everyone is familiar with it, and it’s actually so clichéd that I’m almost embarrassed to even write it out: “A picture is worth a thousand words.” I mention it right now because let’s do that: Let’s do exactly 1,000 words about this photo, starting now:
Extremely impressive. LeBron had to catch the ball, dribble to the 3-point line, turn around, keep his heels up off the ground so as not to step out of bounds accidentally, square up and jump at the same time, then actually shoot the ball while fading away to avoid the defender, and he had to do all that in under four seconds. It was like a combination of the end-of-game shot that Rex Chapman hit against the Sonics in 1997 and the end-of-game shot Sean Elliott hit against the Trail Blazers in 1999.
Two things, the second of which is tied to the first: (1) Brian Windhorst and Dave McMenamin have a new book coming out about LeBron. I was curious whether LeBron meant to bank the shot in, so I asked them. Dave said he’d recently asked LeBron about it. LeBron’s response: “Well, I knew the angle, where I was at on the court. Just had to get behind the 3-point line and I figured the best shot for me was to go glass on it. But it started with Kev’s pass, first of all. He gave me a great pass, and I just tried to trust my judgment, knowing where the rim is at and knowing [where] the glass is and I was able to bank it in.” (2) I don’t know that I 100 percent believe that LeBron meant to bank it in, but I do know that I 100 percent believe that if there was any player in the league capable of computing all of the above while also computing the proper angle from which to bank the shot in, it’d be LeBron, easily one of the six smartest basketball players I have ever watched play basketball. He gets the benefit of the doubt here.
The Man Looking at LeBron’s Shoes
That’s Tony Brown. He’s Scott Brooks’s lead assistant with the Wizards. He used to be the interim coach for the Nets, an interim NBA team. He also actually played in the NBA for eight seasons. I started digging through old news clippings from the ’80s and early ’90s to find stories about him because I became very personally invested in him after I learned his name. This is from the January 1 edition of the L.A. Times in 1992: “Swingman Tony Brown, who played in 22 games for the Clippers but spent the last five on the injured list after the return of Bo Kimble, was waived. Technically, teams are not allowed to cut an injured player. But the Clippers declared Brown, said to have a strained right hamstring, physically sound and then released him.” That seems a like a weak move on the part of the Clippers, but maybe that’s just me rooting for my guy Tony Brown, my favorite NBA player of all time.
The Emotion Wheel
This is my favorite stretch of people in the crowd because, from left to right, we have all of the different emotions that a shot like LeBron’s can draw out of people. There’s the Angry Defiance (the guy shoutShoutSHOUTING at LeBron), the Peculiar Surprise (the guy in the dark blue jacket), the Glee And Exaltation (the woman in the blue Kill Bill outfit), the Empty Nothingness (the woman in the black jacket), and the Dreadful Goddamnit (the guy in the dark gray sweater).
(The only one missing in the row is the I Need A Seat, which is when an opposing player does something so astounding that the only thing your body can think to do is sit down. All you have to do, though, is scroll the opposite direction down the row and you’ll find it. Watch the guy standing next to my beloved Tony Brown:
The Dead-Faced Man in the Tan Sweater
That’s Ted Leonsis. He is the majority owner of a company called Monumental Sports & Entertainment, which owns five sports teams, one of which is the Washington Wizards. My favorite thing about him is that he’s worth an estimated billion dollars but is dressed here like a substitute teacher. It’s the best example of “You do what you want when you’re poppin’” that I can think of. If I were him, I’d just start showing up to games in ever increasingly bizarre outfits. Maybe one day he shows up dressed like Trinity in The Matrix, another day like Leonidas in 300. Who’s really gonna say something about it?
There He Is
The no. 1 game I play when I leave the house is called “Where’s The Mexican”? The way it works is I say to myself, “OK, find the Mexican,” and then I try to find a Mexican. It’s like “Racist Where’s Waldo?.” I think it’s because I grew up in south San Antonio and Mexicans are all I was ever around, so they’re just what I look for reflexively. Or maybe it’s because the older I get, the more I realize how differently people of different races see the world and experience the world. Maybe it’s a combination of both of those things. I don’t know. It’s probably that last one. Anyway, the point is: I spent a fair amount of time looking for Mexicans (or even one Mexican) in this picture. He’ll be my pick for that. And to be clear: I don’t know that he’s Mexican — there’s a perfectly reasonable chance that he’s, say, Jewish or Peruvian or Sicilian or just a white guy who spends a lot of time outside — but I’m going with it just for myself.
(Here’s a neat thing: There’s literally a website that helps you find other Mexicans in Washington, D.C. I found it while I was searching the internet trying to find the population of Mexicans in Washington, which was not a thing I could have anticipated I’d be doing when I began writing about this LeBron picture. We have a similar website in Houston. It’s called “just go outside.”)
There you go: 1,000 words.
An earlier version of this piece included a headline that indicated that LeBron’s shot was a game winner; it tied the game.