When it comes to NBA Finals 2010-2019 there have been some spectacular moments. There was Metta World Peace hitting a three with a minute left to secure Kobe Bryant’s immortality in 2010. There was Dirk Nowitzki’s fourth quarter 16 footers to seal the upset win in Miami which nearly sent LeBron James into a summer coma. How about Andre Iguodala’s two threes to give the Warriors a 15 point fourth quarter lead and ruin any idea of a Cleveland comeback in 2015? Fred Van Vleet’s three broke a 101-101 tie and the Raptors beat the Warriors in their last game in Oracle last June.
Defense matters but championships are won because shot makers do what they do. They put the ball in the hole when the pressure is on. No shots had greater pressure than Ray Allen’s three in 2013 and Kyrie Irving’s jumper in 2016. One was in a game 6 and one was in a game 7.
Let’s start with Ray Allen and the shot that Miami will never forget. It was Game 6 with Miami trailing 3-2 to San Antonio. After Kawhi Leonard’s second free throw gave the Spurs a 3 point lead with 19 seconds left, LeBron James sized up a three. It was hero ball. If he made it, his Miami moment was anointed as Jesus walking on water. If he missed and Miami lost another title, their second in three years, James was going to be blamed for the choke.
LeBron missed. But because Greg Popovich took Tim Duncan out the game and inserted Boris Diaw, Chris Bosh had the size and angle for the rebound. He darted it to the corner and Ray Allen. Allen could make that shot blindfolded. Allen made 2,973 threes in his career. But the pressure is what made the shot epic. He didn’t hesitate. Swish. Overtime. In overtime, Allen hit a bucket and made two free throws plus stole the ball from Manu Ginobli. The Heat advanced to a Game 7 because Ray Allen was Ray Allen.
What No One Talks About. The Ray Allen shot wasn’t a buzzer beater. The Spurs had the ball with .06 left. Tough but not impossible. Tony Parker missed.
The Legacy of Ray Allen’s Shot. Had Allen missed, the Heat would have been the 2008 Celtics and the 2004 Pistons. One title. Misunderstood and underachievers. Hype but nothing else. But Ray Allen authenticated “The Decision.” That was the last title for LeBron, Wade and Bosh. Ray Allen reminded everyone talent needs clutch.
Three years later, Kyrie Irving was immortalized in a Game 7 that never should have happened. The Warriors were up 3-1. Then Draymond Green was suspended. Kyrie and LeBron took 54 shots with a missing Green while Steph Curry missed 13 of his shots and Harrison Barnes missed 12 of his. Cavs won by 15. In Game 6, LeBron was in refuse to lose mode at Quicken Loans. He had 41 points and 11 assists. Draymond was back but it didn’t matter.
In Game 7, Draymond Green was the most efficient player on the floor. 73% and 75% from three. His teammates felt the pressure. Steph missed 10 threes and 13 shots overall, none more costly than a hero three over Kevin Love that was exactly what the Cavs wanted. Klay Thompson missed 8 threes. What was supposed to be a Warriors 73 win regular season triumph in the playoffs was a tense game with both teams missing shots, making defensive plays, and creating tension among fan bases. But here’s is the root of the root.
The score was 89-89. With two minutes left:
- Draymond Green missed a three
- Kyrie Irving missed a j
- Iggy had his shot chased down by LeBron James with a clean OMG block
- LeBron then missed a 5-footer
- Curry missed a bomb three
It was set up perfectly for Kyrie Irving and his dribble. A step back and he launched a three in the face of Steph Curry. It was the kind of shot that gives redemption. Irving had suffered through the Cavs hell years. He bit his tongue when LeBron James said “my guys” as if Irving was his sidekick and not his equal. It was that one perfect moment. All the misery before then had a purpose. But the game wasn’t over.
Curry responded. A crappy shot over Kevin Love that had zero chance. The Cavs were still clinging to a 3 point lead. Irving’s next shot was blocked by Iggy. Irving got the rebound and was fouled. But the Warriors weren’t in the penalty. When Draymond fouled LeBron, he missed the first free throw and Oracle exhaled. It was not over. Perfect season still had a chance. But Bron made the second. 11 seconds left. Another Curry miss and that was that. The Cavs won their first title in franchise history and in doing so they slayed Goliath. They ruined the Warriors perfect season.
The Legacy of Irving’s Shot. The Warriors lost their relevancy as greatest ever. Had Kyrie missed and Steph connected, had the Warriors won in 2016 and then in 2017 and in 2018, they would have four-peated and the only team to have done that is the vaunted Celtics. Kyrie effectively poked a bunch of giant holes in the Warriors mythology. Steph didn’t have a good series because he wasn’t 100%, exhausted and banged up from trying for 73 wins. It was a cautionary tale. What matters more? A regular season record? Or, a title?
In the aftermath of his shot, Kyrie Irving began to isolate himself from the team and LeBron James. He did a huge thing on a national stage and now he wanted compensation, attention, and recognition. That shot ended the Cavs as we know it. Despite them making history.
Epilogue. When Ray Allen hit his majestic shot, he was 37 years old. Kyrie was 24 years old when he made the shot that Cleveland will never forget. His career hadn’t even reached his prime. The shot gave Kyrie incentive to chart his own path, follow his own muse, make a way where there was no way. Ray was an older player with a lot of jumps in his legs. He was cold from the field that spectacular night but the lights were bright and he came through in the moment that will live on in Miami Heat history.