Legends might or might not be made in the NBA Finals, but they certainly can be cemented. We saw it happen again in this year's Finals with LeBron James.
We are all familiar with the indelible moments from Finals history: Magic Johnson starting at center and scoring 42 points to lead the Lakers to a title as a rookie; Year later, Magic beating the Celtics in Game 4 with a sweeping hook shot; Michael Jordan getting six 3s in a half in one Finals, scoring 38 points to beat the Jazz with the flu in another, then knocking down a title-winning jumper over Bryon Russell to punctuate his Bulls career; Jerry West hitting from 60 feet to force overtime; Willis Reed limping out of the tunnel to inspire the Knicks.
Entering the series against the high-powered Golden State Warriors, James' place in basketball history was more than secure. He's won MVPs, multiple championship rings and has produced brilliantly over a long period with perhaps the most distinctive combination of body type, skill, athleticism and basketball IQ we've ever seen. In a sense, his career has been nothing but iconic.
Yet what would you consider the signature James moment, the kind we described above, the transcendent instant that will be replayed during future montages that open future Finals broadcasts? You can argue that it is this series, perhaps even the image of him hugging Golden State's Steve Kerr and Stephen Curry as he exited the game on Tuesday. That's because James nearly pulled off something that just doesn't happen in the NBA: He almost carried his team to a title all on his own, and he did it playing a style of basketball that is completely contrary to the on-court instincts he's built up over a lifetime of superlative success.