How good is LeBron James Jr.

NBA: Like J.R. Smith destroyed LeBron James' masterpiece in the 2018 Finals

Two years ago today, LeBron James was on his way to another masterpiece in the NBA Finals. Game 1 of the 2018 Finals, however, went down in history for an entirely different reason.

LeBron James is not suspected of missing major playoff games or moments. The "48 Special" against the Pistons, the epic Game 6 in Boston 2012, the (one) game winner against Toronto, of course the three won finals, including "The Block" and the comeback after falling 1-3 in 2016. The The list could go on for a long time.

His performance on May 31, 2018 seemed to be high on this list. In a way, LeBron was even working on his greatest trick: Here were the Cavs, guests of the all-powerful Warriors, without Kyrie Irving, as one of the greatest underdogs in recent Finals history. And they were well on their way to steal home advantage.

James controlled the action in a unique manner, kept the pace low and attacked the Warriors again and again, was unstoppable. The ringerCEO Bill Simmons later described his performance as "the best I've ever seen in person," and it's actually hard to find better games individually. 51 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists speak for themselves.

George Hill missed the second free throw

The final minute didn't mean well to LeBron, however. 36 seconds before the end, he accepted an offensive foul from Kevin Durant, but this call was unusually corrected. Instead of possession and leadership for Cleveland, KD equalized on the line. James put the Cavs back into the lead with a layup, but Stephen Curry countered with an And-1 with 23 seconds to go.

With only four seconds left on the clock, George Hill went to the free-throw line, hit his first, and again equalized the game. Another freebie was due, would have meant the lead. Hill missed, but was saved - because J.R. Smith. Unfortunately, the swingman was the only person in the hall who didn't know what to do next.

Instead of trying to score himself or find a teammate, Smith dribbled out to run the clock - James' desperation at that moment was captured and remains a meme to this day.

J.R. Smith didn't know the score

"I can't say I was sure about anything at the moment," Smith said days later. That could be seen, although he said immediately after the game that he knew about it and was actually just waiting for coach Tyronn Lue to take a break.

The story after that is known: The Cavs lost their only chance in the series in overtime, LeBron hit a blackboard so hard in anger that he injured his right hand (allegedly even broke). He then created another meme when he abruptly cut off a press conference because he didn't want to ponder Smith's state of mind.

The defining moment for J.R. Smith?

Golden State sweeps itself up to the title, in the summer James shipped his talents to L.A. His potential masterpiece in Game 1 of the 2018 Finals degenerated into one memory among many.

But not for Smith - the mistake on this day will forever be the moment for many who are first associated with the name "J.R. Smith". The then 32-year-old already seemed to suspect that two days later. "I said right after the game that I was glad it happened to me and to no one else on my team," said Smith.

"It's tough to be in a situation like this, and not everyone would be able to handle it." That sounded a bit strange even then, but it was no accident. In a way, Smith actually seemed predestined for just such a moment.

J.R. Smith threw soup at a coach

While LeBron can enumerate the big playoff moments, Smith enumerates other events: He had to pay fines several times for tying opponents' shoelaces, he violated the league's anti-drug guidelines, was suspended because he threw a bowl of tortilla soup at Cavs Assistant Coach Damon Jones.

From a sporting point of view, his mistake in Game 1 was not the only noteworthy one, even in the Knicks jersey Smith had forgotten the score and ironically pulled the trigger instead of downplaying the clock, whereby New York still lost. Smith always managed, however, not to let such things throw him off course too much.

"I've always been the one who was the target of ridicule or something crazy," said Smith after Game 1. "I just come back, stay myself, and play again the next day. I don't stick with myself too much on things. It's been like this my whole life, and that's how it should stay. "

J.R. Smith: The better scapegoat

Smith, for all his weirdness, always had thick skin and a self-confidence that was obviously difficult to shake. He knew that he had earned LeBron's trust beforehand, that Cleveland would probably not have won the 2016 title without him (who stood in the way of Iguodala again before "The Block"?), That his talent would lead him to a Sixth Man of the year.

Perhaps he also suspected that what he said about it wouldn't matter anyway - that given the extent of his failure, no one cared that it was Hill who missed the free throw or that overtime was to be played. The brightly colored Smith bird was evidently a more interesting scapegoat than the staid Hill.

J.R. Smith

teamFrom ... toGamesPointsFG%3FG%
New Orleans2004-20061319,239,431,6
new York2011-201521315,141,636,9

J.R. Smith is still waiting for a new job

What he certainly had no idea at the time, however, is the further course of his own career. To date, Smith has only played 14 other NBA games. His trade request after LeBron's departure was not heard because he was simply too expensive with a salary of $ 14.7 million. He was released in July 2019, but has not found a new team despite a few workouts.

If it stays that way for the 34-year-old, the dropout in Game 1 would be his last really significant NBA moment. It's actually a shame for one of the most entertaining players of his time, who met the third-most threesomes after Curry and Kyle Korver between 2004 and 2018, could run hot like no other and went partying with Rihanna on the side or chugged through NBA halls while drinking beer on a hoverboard.

One could also say: Maybe it wasn't a completely unsuitable conclusion.