After LeBron James dribbled to his left, stepped back, and released the ball destined for the hoop… *swoosh* … I could not help but drop my beer, my fear in the deer, and think, “Damn, that’s just greatness.” No thoughts of disbelief, no thoughts of anger (the Bucks eventually winning helped with this). What LeBron James did Tuesday night was what he has done inside the Bradley Center for fourteen years: dominate.
Win or lose, James has provided Milwaukee, often among an abysmal basketball year, more than just entertaining hoops. He has played the Bucks more than any team in the NBA (54 games) while averaging a whopping 28.4 points, 7.3 TRB, and 6.9 assists. All of which rank in the top three against his opponents over the course of his career. The Bradley Center has welcomed the King and his Court, onto its court, where he has assumed the throne. When it hit me that Tuesday was the last time the Bradley Center would house the King (in the regular season), I decided to take a trip down memory lane. From the purple and green, the red and green, and now the cream and green, James has seen the Deer decorated in them all. Let us begin:
On November 6, 2004, the 0-2 Cavaliers squared off with the 1-1 Milwaukee Bucks. Unfortunately for the King, it was in this early season matchup that the Cavs could not stop the sharpshooter in Michael Redd. Twenty-Two went for Twenty-Eight and more importantly, the win. However it was not Redd with the most impressive stat line, rather the 19 year old:
prince King LeBron James. Playing 42 minutes, James clocked out of work with a packed stat line: 31 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, and 3 steals. Light it up Ray? Light it up LeBron. Though the slogan was dying out, he certainly “lit up” the stat sheet in his 3rd career game at the Bradley Center.
The 55 point game…. On February 20th, 2009, King James not only punched in 55, but 5 rebounds and 9 assists and a few steals. It was not the final stat line that impressed, rather the manner in which Lebron went about it. To those diehards, his work was dirty and offensive. His shot was dropping quicker than Michael Redd dropping to the floor holding his knees. There were Step backs….
There were deep threes…
and I think he was floating at one point?
January 7th, 2011, same story, new team. LeBron was well past his decision and the Heat were cruising. But on this night, the Scott Skiles led, 13-20 Bucks took the Big Three’s, 29-9 Miami Heat to an overtime thriller. Chris-Douglas Roberts dropped 30, Bogut snagged in 27 rebounds, and Corey Maggette punched in a hardy 2 points in 8 minutes of play. The game looked to be a wrap in favor of the Heat until little Earl Boykins floated the ball over “Big Z” Ilgauskas to head to overtime. Unfortunately, LeBron and Company secured the win, behind his diverse, 26 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists, 5 steals and 1 block.
Though historians are yet to agree, I believe the Origins of the Bucks in Six occurred on February 1st, 2012. So the story goes… a few weeks earlier, the Deer trotted south for an Eastern Conference matchup against the Stars of Miami. Only with God Willing did Milwaukee head home with a win behind the younnin’, Brandon Jennings and the ageless Drew Gooden. Milwaukee actually looked like they matched up well with the Heat; utilizing quickness, fast breaks, and lengthy interior defense to secure the victory.
On the 1st of February, however, the game started much differently. At the end of the first, not only did the Heat lead the Bucks 31-23, but LeBron led them 24-23. My mans showed out and showed out early; appearing to dismantle any hopes for a Bucks victory.
Looking to the second half, the Bucks found themselves down 18. Then 16. Then 17. And then 18 again. Miami’s lead, however, disappeared quickly…
The spark of the comeback? The Young Buck, the proprietor, and man responsible for the infamous “Bucks in 6” prediction; Brandon Jennings. Jennings hit 6 threes in about 5 minutes of basketball play, thus resembling what he did as a Rookie against the Warriors: volume scoring. Even future Piston Tobias Harris was pumped (peep end of gif). That is what the King does. He is so great he is even responsible for some of his losses. Not responsible in the sense that he himself lost his team the game; rather responsible in the sense that his opponents occasionally will rise up to the challenge. He inspires good basketball. He is great basketball. In the end, LeBron poured in 40 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals.
Milwaukee actually ended up taking the season series 3-1 that year…The result?:
The real result? A 4-0 sweep in the playoffs. Heat win finals.
Regardless of the year, his team, or the Bucks success, LeBron James continually gave the Bradley Center crowd a show. Whenever he showed up, he showed out. He encouraged even the lowliest of low Bucks teams to fight and sent some of the more competitive ones into the locker room scratching their heads wondering “How did he just do that?” I do not doubt that next year, King James will assume and resume his glory across the street at the new Arena. But the memories he created on 4th and State will linger forever. I have been fortunate enough to see over a decade of LeBron James basketball. Just as players have left the game wondering, I too have left scratching my head thinkings“Damn, that’s just greatness.”
I can only hope that one day, when the King’s career has past, and Giannis has come to dominate, a Cavaliers fan will watch in disbelief, scratching his head, coming to accept that, “…damn…. that’s just greatness.”