By now you’ve probably seen the above video. It’s LeBron James’ heart-breaking buzzer-beater from the corner that downed the Chicago Bulls and tied up the Eastern Conference Semifinals in dramatic fashion. But that victorious narrative wasn’t always a LeBron hallmark as he steered through the treacherous waters of outsized expectations and the legacies of prior legends.
In fact, only in the past five years has he shown this supreme confidence in pressure-packed situations. Down one or two, LeBron has been a terror in the lane, driving for guaranteed points or a chance at free throws. Down three, he’s sharpened his aim from the arc to stifle opponents with dagger buckets. Shooting has never been a James strong-suit, but winning certainly is. In career playoff chances, he’s now surpassed Michael Jordan as a capable option down the stretch when his teams need a shot.
Whereas only a few years ago the knock on James was that he would rather defer the winning shot to a teammate rather than go to the line or take it himself, now it’s an unquestioned premise that he will take the fateful shot come hell or high water.
And it’s justified. Take a look at LeBron James’ game-winning feats, in chronological order.
2006 Playoffs versus the Washington Wizards
2009 regular season versus the Golden State Warriors
2009 Playoffs versus the Orlando Magic
2013 Playoffs versus the Boston Celtics
2013 Playoffs versus Indiana Pacers
2014 regular season versus the Golden State Warriors
2014 regular season versus Milwaukee Bucks