“Going into the Playoffs, our whole mindset was we just gotta get past one guy, and we’ll make it to the finals.” For years, the Raptors were confident they could beat 13 teams from the Eastern Conference. Then there was Cleveland. Not Cleveland, really – then there was LeBron. His athleticism is overwhelming, but DeMar DeRozan kept coming back to something else.
“It’s incredibly difficult to beat a LeBron team four times in a series … He’s just unbeatable in the playoffs; he’s so tough to beat. And it takes just a certain level of intellect to get to his level.”DeMar DeRozan, The Old Man & The Three
We’ve seen many examples of this. LeBron recalling plays from who knows when and calling out what everyone did on it. To reach such heights, your place in all those GOAT debates, a perfect storm has to happen. A perfect storm of motivation, athletic gift, hard work, and supreme intellect. This isn’t just thinking the game faster, having it slow down for you. This is a whole different level.
How do you recognize it? If you hear a team saying they kept playing at someone’s pace, that’s a bingo! The plays he decides to run don’t factor in his own performance; LeBron is deciding stuff that impacts how his teammates play and how the opponent will react. How does he do that? Well, he knows his oppositions’ plays better than they do.
“I don’t think I have ever told anybody, it was a play we tried to run, a teammate forgot the play, and LeBron told him what the play was. It was crazy; it just showed how locked-in Bron can be during the playoffs.”DeMar DeRozan, The Old Man & The Three
This isn’t the first time we got a story like this, but it never gets old. That level of thinking requires a feel for the game combined with endless hours of watching film. That’s why it’s so hard to beat LeBron in a seven-game series. Yes, he is an unprecedented combination of size, speed, and strength.
But knowing how to use those gifts 99-99% of the time on the court makes him one of the best who ever played the game.