It wasn’t supposed to be this easy. After stealing Game 2, the Cleveland Cavaliers came out with a surgical effort in Game 2 to put a stranglehold on the Toronto Raptors. LeBron James got teammates involved early, and played the executioner late displaying a mastery over a team he’s sent home twice the last two seasons.
A lot has been made of LeBron’s memory in recent years and his ability to recall plays or moments and draw upon them to help him in present situations. But after Game 2, LeBron revealed that a memorable low moment for him professionally helped drive him to be the player he is today:
LeBron James on improvement since 2011 Finals: "I wasn't that good of a player... I wasn't a complete basketball player. Dwane Casey drew up a gameplan to take away things I was good at & make me do things I wasn't very good at. He's part of the reason why I am who I am today." pic.twitter.com/lcOSKZoqpw— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) May 4, 2018
When hearing this quote, it lit up a lightbulb in my head. Over the past couple of seasons, LeBron has seemed to put an emphasis on memorizing and dissecting everything the Raptors run.
There was a moment picked up by the Canadian broadcast in Game 1, where Dwane Casey called out a play during a free throw, and LeBron immediately barked out what the play was. The broadcast remarked that he’s stealing signs like a third base coach, as the camera panned to an exasperated Casey.
The 2011 Finals are undoubtedly the lowest professional moment for LeBron James. The moment proved too big for him and he let his team down. But his ability to bounce back and come back bigger and better has been a defining trait of his career. Unfortunately for the Toronto Raptors, the man who laid the foundation for their success happens to be someone with a target on his head in the eyes of an all-time great.