With the game on the line and the ball in Darth Vader's hands, the NBA's biggest villain passed to a guy who hadn't made a shot all game.
You know the rest. Eddie House sank a 3-pointer with 22 seconds left that rescued the Miami Heat and ruined an otherwise fabulous Sunday afternoon downtown. Miami beat the Thunder 108-103, and we learned it is very difficult not to appreciate LeBron James, despite an image-makeover most definitely for the worst.
The best basketball player on the planet trusts his teammates. For all the nonsense displayed by LeBron since last summer, that's not a bad trait to have.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra called his squad a “band of brothers.” Let's not get too much into World War II, but in the 2011 NBA, it's Miami against the world.
And the Heat is thriving, with a 33-14 record despite a 9-8 start.
LeBron accepted the villain's cape when he took his talents to South Beach, and it hasn't hurt his basketball. His popularity, yes. LeBron was booed in pre-game more than any OKC visitor all season, though still not anything like he gets most places.
“He loves this,” Spoelstra said. “He loves the role. Look no further than his road games. He did an incredible job tonight, facilitating our offense.”
LeBron scored 23 points on just 14 shots against the Thunder, with a game-high 13 assists.
The Heat had played four straight games without Chris Bosh and one without Dwyane Wade. We arrived at the arena thinking neither would play, absences which turn the Heat into the Cavaliers of yesteryear — LeBron, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and a bunch of other guys.
Turns out Miami needs all its superstars. Wade scored 32 points on 13-of-22 shooting, and Bosh scored 20 on 8-of-13 shooting.
“Good to get our band of brothers back,” Spoelstra said.
“Guys love this type of atmosphere. This is a great arena, the fans are electric. If you're a professional athlete, this is what you live for. Games that have meaning, fans into it.”