There are so many wonderful things about the Bulls ending the streak, but one of the more underrated ones is LeBron James reconfirming that despite all the charming Samsung commercials, ESPN Interviews, and ability to not tweet ridiculously stupid things for a year that he’s still a petty, low class, adolescent at heart. It’s so much easier to hate Darth Vader, and I’d almost been convinced that maybe he wasn’t so bad after all. Almost.
Nope. In just a few moments, LeBron reconfirmed that the only difference in his attitude is that he had won, and it’s easy to be magnanimous as the winner.
After the game, LeBron refused to shake hands, just like after losing to Orlando in the playoffs. You remember that whole sportsmanship thing that he’d try to convince people he’d grown up and gotten past? Not so much. He’s magnanimous in victory, but he’s still the same petty sore loser he’s always been.
After the game, he gave one of the more amusing speeches about officiating you’ll hear when complaining that he has to deal with flagrants and technicals all the time when he defends himself and gave an awesome definition of basketball play.
Hinrich and Gibson wrapping up LeBron while he has the ball driving for the layup is not a basketball play, but apparently LeBron throwing an elbow to “defend himself” against a player standing not doing anything is a basketball play I guess.
This isn’t to say I don’t get where LeBron is coming from, it’s part of the Shaq dilemma . He’s so big and strong that players need to use more force to slow him down than he’s allowed to use back on them, but the idea that LeBron feels screwed over by the officials is comical, and the fact that he calls what the Bulls did non basketball plays is equally amusing relative to him throwing an elbow for no reason other than he just had taken a hard foul.
LeBron received plenty of reputation calls in this game and got away with plenty of non whistle reputation defensive plays as well.
Top five moments of the game
#5: Nate Robinson’s first half pick pocket of Dwyane Wade from behind, advancing the ball, then knocking down the wide open three then give the crowd the Ben Gordon three point monocle as he runs back down the court. The Heat were in a high percentage transition play and Robinson’s swipe + three may have caused a five point swing in momentum.
#4: Taj Gibson delivering the hard foul to LeBron James followed up by LeBron losing his cool and ramming Boozer then throwing an elbow at him to draw his own flagrant. It’s so fun to watch the king unravel. You think James reacts the same way if he didn’t know he was about to lose the game? Neither do I.
#3: Luol Deng knocking down two clutch threes in the closing minutes when the Heat looked like they’d charge back and win the game like they’ve done to so many opponents during the streak. Chicago had a hard time getting good looks, but there’s nothing to cool off a comeback like knocking down a three, and Luol double dipped.
#2 Luol Deng’s alley oop pass to Jimmy Butler for the complete posterization of Chris Bosh and follow up scream, walk off, and shake with confidence. Jimmy Butler ain’t afraid. That’s for damn sure. And just because we’re talking about dunking on Chris Bosh, it’s worth mentioning the runner up “Bosh is downy-soft” moment. On a key possession for my Miami to stay in the game Bosh corralled an offensive rebound only to have Kirk Hinrich just walk up rip it out of his hands.
#1: The moment the Heat gave up on the game which was about as visually obvious as you’ll ever see ‘quit’ in a game. What makes it best is that typically the coach quits on the game by pulling players, not so. LeBron James visually quit on this game in one of the more obvious fashions you’ll ever see a player quit.
Nate Robinson drives right into the lane and puts up a floater. LeBron just jumps up, grabs the rim, and hangs on it while the ball is still 3-4 feet from the hoop causing a goaltend, conceding the basket [which went in anyway], and conceding the game. The game quickly ended after that, and the Heat walked off without shaking hands.
At that moment, you saw the ‘quit’. You saw them vulnerable. Broken. Mentally beaten.
They’ll bounce back. They’ll probably win the title. They’re an awesome team, one of the best of all time. I’m not taking that way from them. However, the Bulls broke them at that moment, and even after the game you could see how unraveled LeBron was in his interviews getting offended when asked about what makes Chicago tough to play. He couldn’t give the Bulls credit. He couldn’t bring himself to say it. Instead he just said the Heat are awfully tough to play too, and the question was unfair.
He tried to downplay how much the streak would have meant to them, but you could tell it was all a pile of crap. You could tell how much it meant, you could tell he wanted the history, and it feels great to be the team to rip history out of LeBron’s hands.
Can any of this translate to the playoffs?
So the Bulls are now 7-3 in the regular season against the Heat since the unholy trinity formed. They’ve won three games without Derrick Rose and a fourth while Rose played half the game while recovering from injury, played god awful, and didn’t play in crunch time.
Yet in their one playoff matchup, the Bulls lost 1-4 and lost four straight after taking the first game. There was some poor luck in the game for Chicago as the Bulls had legitimate chances to win three of the four games at the end but just came up a bit short.
So while the Bulls have had absolutely epic moments against Miami in the regular season, moments that will live forever in my basketball mind, the Heat will always have the last laugh if Chicago can’t translate these moments to the playoffs, and while we all enjoy winning the battles, the Heat have been winning the wars.
Sadly, I don’t expect that to change, but I didn’t expect a win tonight either.
Thank you Chicago Bulls
This is why you watch sports isn’t it?
You know it’s just one game, you know it doesn’t mean anything in the long run, you go into it without much hope. That’s what makes it so amazing. You get to live vicariously for a moment through your team with every big shot made. Fist pump for the victory, and mimic Jimmy Butler’s “I’m a bad ass shake” after posterizing Chis Bosh at the office today.
For a day, we won’t care when Derrick Rose returns, we won’t whine about our inability to add players, we won’t care that we’re not going to win the championship this year. For a day, we can sit back and enjoy how awesome that was.
Thank you Luol Deng, thank you Jimmy Butler, and thank you Carlos Boozer, Nate Robinson, Taj Gibson, Kirk Hinrich, and everyone else who helped grind out some minutes and made a play. Thank you for smacking Miami in the mouth, for showing the world they can be hurt, for breaking them. Thank you for giving us back Bulls basketball. Even if it’s just for one night. Thank you.