kawhi leonard

Originally published in SLAM 171

It’s a good thing it happened when it happened, maybe—Mike Miller getting dunked on, poster-style, complete with a smack in the face—because it was so early in the game that anything could still happen. Late in the series, but as the Heat proved again and again this season and post, never too late.

The dunk itself becomes an instant part of Finals lore, perhaps as cornrowed San Antonio vengeance for a similar dunk then-Knick Latrell Sprewell threw down on then-Spur Jaren Jackson in the Spurs’ first Finals appearance back in 1999. Spree went with both hands and took one dribble, but both were slashing dunks in transition from the left side, from virtually the same spot.

Only the Knicks lost that series, and as it turned out, the Spurs would lose this one, with Miller hitting a big trey with one shoe on, and assisting on an even bigger LeBron James three that put the game back in doubt. And in between, Leonard at the line with a chance to ice it, misses a huge free throw. Miami would win in OT and close out the series in seven. We think Kawhi would have gladly traded the poster for a ring.

Russ Bengtson