LeBron James’s thunderous chase-down block of Andre Iguodala in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals was one of the most remarkable defensive plays in basketball history.
For one, it required every ounce of LeBron’s superhuman athleticism. Second, the play couldn’t have come at a more pivotal moment. At the time, the score was knotted at 89-89 with roughly a minute and 50 seconds left to play. Had Iguodala made that bucket, the entire complexion of the rest of the game would have been different.
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You’ve surely seen the block dozens of times by now, but during a recent appearance on the Open Run podcast, LeBron himself offered up an amazing insight about the play:
“In practice, I always tell J.R. and Shump and Kyrie and all our guards, ‘if you see me running, if you can just make the offensive player just change his momentum just a little bit, it’ll give me enough time to track it. Buy me a second.’ If you look at the play, J.R. swung over the top and Iguodala had to scrunch just a little bit instead of just going up and jamming. He made him scrunch a little bit and that gave me the split second.”
Now, get ready to see the play in a whole new way:
The play actually starts as a two-on-one break for the Warriors, with J.R. Smith trying to guard both Steph Curry and Iguodala. Smith steps out toward Curry as soon as he crosses the 3-point line, and Curry responds by feeding Iggy with a bounce pass. Smith is pretty much toast at this point, but he still goes up to challenge Iguodala, forcing him to bring the ball down to his right to try before laying the ball in and giving LeBron the second he needs to swoop in and swat the shot. Smith deserves a ton of credit for staying with the play and not fouling, which set up LeBron’s heroics. Smith’s defense also left him in the perfect position to snatch the loose ball after the block.
Most people probably didn’t notice the role Smith played in this iconic play, but LeBron’s comments remind us of the incredible power of teamwork.
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