LeBron James did not just deliver a game-winning bucket in the final seconds of Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals Wednesday night, he proved wrong a major assumption about his game popularized by Michael Jordan.
In February, Jordan told ESPN that James nearly always does the same thing when playing in isolation. When he goes right, James tends to drive. When he goes left, he shoots jump shots, which are a lower-percentage play than drives.
"So if I have to guard him," Jordan said, "I'm gonna push him left so nine times out of 10, he's gonna shoot a jump shot. If he goes right, he's going to the hole and I can't stop him."
But in the closing seconds on Wednesday, James took the ball on an inbounds pass, and blew by the Pacers' Paul George, driving to the rim and hitting a left-handed layup just before the buzzer.
ESPN.com asked James what he thought about Jordan's theory on Thursday. "That theory is wrong, I guess," James said.
The statistics back up James. ESPN Synergy Sports data showing that James shot 56.3 percent on 112 shots this season when going to the left on an isolation play, and "just" 48.5 percent on 97 shots when going right in iso.
James pointed out that he has been practicing left-handed plays since he started playing basketball.
"Frank Walker, my first basketball coach, taught me how to make a lefthanded layup," James said. "He wouldn't let me dribble the ball until I got the steps down to make a lefthanded layup consistently. We used to do it before practice every day. He always told me I'd be a much better player if I could make shots with both hands."
James' Game 1 performance (he scored 30 points with 10 rebounds and 10 assists, the ninth playoff triple double of his career) underscore why he was named a unanimous All-NBA selection Wednesday, in addition to his near-unanimous MVP selection. Even his supposed weaknesses are actually strengths.
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