Friday, August 29th, 2008 at 1:54 pm  |  30 responses

What The King Did

With the Olympics over, Jake looks back at the King dropping 50 at the Garden.

By Jake Appleman

Last year I helped out SLAM and Nike by contributing to a site called HoopsFuture. One of the pieces I wrote for them came on the heels of LeBron’s 50 point outing at the Garden. Since that website no longer exists, I figured it’d be fun to rerun this piece here. Enjoy.

It’s hard to imagine, but LeBron James was once a lightening rod for criticism. Many of these criticisms (accepted a gift…jumpshot needed work) clouded the inevitable reality that he was destined for great things. Still, people look at him too often solely to gawk at the genius of his physical gifts. The razor-sharp mental acuity is just as tangibly brilliant–and equally important.

I was at LeBron’s virtuoso performance against the Knicks this Wednesday night at the Garden. After the King dropped 50, I felt like Mozart had played a riveting concerto, but only after smashing a piano over my head. I was impressed not because he scored 50 but because he scored 48 after scoring 2 in the first quarter. And the mental preparation and execution behind what he did while scoring those 2 measly points were just as impressive as anything else he did that night, save the absurd, buzzer-beating fadeaway from just in front of half-court.

“Typical start for James, rarely looking for his offense,” Clyde Frazier said on the MSG broadcast. Let’s check LeBron’s impact while scoring those 2 points, because you sure won’t see these plays on the highlight reels.

–Standing almost parallel to the sideline, LeBron causally whips a behind the back bounce pass to Anderson Varejao down low. Varejao find Devin Brown in the corner for 3. (Hockey assist)

–Draws a double in the post and feeds a cutting Varejao–foul drawn. (Assist impact)

–Pick and roll with Devin Brown, finds Brown slipping to the cup. Brown misses the dunk. (Assist potential)

–A few possessions without touches for LeBron result in the Knicks taking the lead.

–He hits a step-back jumper. Smooth as butter. Cavs take the lead back and he’s keeping the defense honest.

–Doubles Eddy Curry in the post, literally engulfs his attempted pass out to the perimeter, and finds Delonte West with a sick feed in transition; West hits the pull-up. (Assist)

–Throws a lob pass to Ben Wallace, who is fouled trying to convert. This is mostly made possible by the fact that the defense is gearing up to stop him and barely cares about Wallace. Implausibly, Wallace hits both free throws. (Assist impact)

–Accurately throws a complex, over-head left-handed pass that finds Wallace underneath for what would seem like an easy deuce. He makes the hardest things look simple. Big Ben, instead of taking the easy two or the free throws, kicks it out to a wide open Delonte West. West drills the 3. (Hockey assist…)

–Makes the easy pass to Devin Brown. Brown hits a 3. (Assist)

–Grabs a rebound, pushes the ball ahead. The lazy Knicks transition defense heads towards the middle of the floor to prevent his attack. He makes the easy play and finds West for another 3, all of this coming after the Knicks called timeout. (Assist)

–Feeds Ben Wallace for an easy 2. (Assist)

–Drives through multiple defenders–but misses.

–Feeds an open Joe Smith. Smith makes an open 20 footer. (Assist)

–Feeds an open Joe Smith again. Smith misses. (Assist potential)

–Spoon-feeds Ben Wallace for an easy two, except Wallace somehow misses the easy finish, like a baby spitting up Gerber. (Assist potential.)

–Last possession of the first quarter: He sizes up Jared Jeffries, but slips–only to recover–and miss an incredibly tough fade-away.

Count ‘em: 4 actual assists, 2 hockey assists, 3 plays with assist-impact and two assists that weren’t granted because of missed shots. 11 possessions in 12 minutes: he changed the game without scoring. It was the prelude to the show that everyone’s been talking about.

After the game I asked LeBron about these hockey assists and other types of assists. “I attract so many double teams my teammates know they’re gonna get shots on the backside,” he said. “It opened things up in the second half.” That’s the key: Everything that people are raving about wasn’t truly possible without the setup.

LeBron isn’t going to go down in history as an all-time great (the best…TBD) because of what he does for himself. He’s going to go down in history as an all time great because of what he does for others.

There’s a popular saying that goes something like, “It’s not what you do that people remember you by. It is how you made them feel.”

Just ask the fan that ran on to the court to meet his hero.

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  • http://sdfjkl.com Jukai

    Love it. You’re forgiven for whatever crap you had wrote that I was angry about.

  • http://twentythreenine.blogspot.com Russ Bengtson

    Jake liked this game the best because I was there. Also, Jerome James had 22 points and six rebounds.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Ryan Jones

    Yeah, but Kobe’s better.

  • http://www.slamonline Jake Appleman

    I wrote something that made you angry, Jukai? I don’t think that’s even possible. Good point, Russ.

  • John E. Sanford

    I see Lebron dropping 32, 8, 7 this season and I’m already picking the Cavs to go to the Finals. Jake made me a believer.

  • http://www.alllooksame.com Tarzan Cooper

    it was against the knicks! kobes 81 was fugazi because sam mitchell never double teamed, and joey graham was trying to guard kobe.

  • Double J

    I second Ryan’s motion, that kobe is in fact better.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Ryan Jones


  • akimana

    You’ve convinced me Mr. Appleman. Lebron is the best.

  • http://fashionsensei.files.wordpress.com/2008/02/jackie-moon.jpg Jackie Moon

    I thought this was gonna be about Bernard King.

  • Sparker

    really nicely broken down. and you’ve underlined how unusual lebron is: franchise player and glue guy, superstar who hits the big shots and does the little things

  • http://www.slamonline.com/ Double R

    “Cleveland fans, don’t buy into the pipe dream. The best LeBron will ever be is an average player.” And in fairness to the guy I just quoted or paraphrased, Grant Hill: “Like Jordan only better.”

  • Tim

    Once again, he wont age well.

  • andrew

    I think Jordan was better than both of them.

  • http://hibachi20.blogspot.com Hursty

    I liked Rip Hamiltons 51 point game at the Garden as well.

  • http://its-mitch.blogspot.com/ Paps

    The Knicks suck.

  • tealish

    Hursty: I as well, but I don’t think we’re going to see a piece on that.

  • chicks love prairie boys

    i think that kobe and lebron are both good but kobe has got a few years on lebron and i think once lebron gets some more experience in the league he could easly surpass kobe- lebron had an impressive game with fifty points but its still a ways off wilt the stilts record of 100 but hopefully we can see him surpass that someday

  • http://hibachi20.blogspot.com Hursty

    Nobody is going to score 100 in the NBA ever again. EVER.

  • chicks love prairie boys

    ya no kidding- but wouldnt that be awesome to see—hursty do u help out on this site cause ive been reading the comments and u have some awesome ones— awesome job on the article jake its a good one keep it up!

  • http://hibachi20.blogspot.com Hursty

    @prairie – Not at the moment mate, but anything is a possibility man :) That would be awesome. Thanks anyways.

  • http://www.another48minutes.blogspot.com Gerard Himself

    wow, someone actually uses the word “fugazi” in a comment? Daring I say.

  • http://slamonline.com Matt Caputo

    TRUE STORY: I was driving to my weekly basketball session, coaching junior high kids. I said in the car on the ride over “Kids don’t give a XXXX that the Knicks are New York’s team, why care about the Knicks when Lebron scores 50 points once a month.” And that night Lebron put 50 on the Knicks.

  • chicks love prairie boys

    @ hursty awesome story on your blog it is sweet–just a bit to much love to some people that dont really need it–they were very smart men but there morales and ideals were a bit off– but that over all subject is one that is not talked about very often but should be– all the respect to u my man for going there and discussing something beyond the court

  • Bruno

    wow! on the knicks?!?!
    they play such a good defense… they play so hard…
    its like they have pat, oakley and friends all again, and this amazing guy scores 50???
    now i’m a believer too. this is the best ever to step on a basketball court… thanks whoever wrote this article.

  • Tony

    Better than kobe

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  • http://www.triplejunearthed.com/dacre Dacre

    It just makes you wonder what if anderson varajo and ben wallace could hit layups…???

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=627550406 KA

    knicks suck! lebron is an okay player.

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