What happened Wednesday night in Cleveland will be remembered for quite some time — in quite different ways.
Cavs fans will never forget yet another mind-boggling addition to the loonngg list of late-game LeBron James heroics, drawing specific memories of a similar jaw-dropper he hit against Orlando in 2009. Pacers faithful will be talking about it … very, very differently, and probably not with language we can include.
Here’s a two-minute oral history of how James’ incredible block/blatant goaltend and game-winning 3-pointer played out.
VICTOR OLADIPO, PACERS STAR WHO’S SURE IT WAS A GOALTEND: I got a step on him. Felt like I even got grabbed on the way to the rim. I tried to shoot a layup, it hit the backboard, then he blocked it. … It was a goaltend. It’s hard to even speak on it. It just sucks, honestly. It really sucks.
LEBRON JAMES, CAVS STAR WHO’S SURE IT WAS NOT A GOALTEND: I definitely thought it was a goaltend. (Laughs) Of course I didn’t think it was a goaltend. I try to make plays like that all the time. He made a heck of a move, got me leaning right, and he went left, and I just tried to use my recovery speed and get back up there and make a play on the ball. And I was able to make a play.
JOE BORGIA, NBA SENIOR VP OF REPLAY AND REFEREE OPERATIONS ON TNT AFTERWARD: In super-slow motion, you just see the ball hit the glass and maybe come off an inch, and that’s when LeBron got it. Like I said, once the ball touches the [backboard], defenders cannot touch it, and unfortunately, James did.
LANCE STEPHENSON, PACERS VETERAN WHO CLEARLY THINKS IT WAS A CLEAR GOALTEND: We can look at the replay. Clearly, clearly goaltending.
GARY MANN, CAVS SEASON-TICKET HOLDER SINCE 1978: During the timeout after the block, I said one word to my wife: “Orlando.”
CEDI OSMAN, CAVS SMALL FORWARD: Before we took the ball out of bounds, I was together with Tristan (Thompson) and I said, ‘Hey, Tristan, this is going in. Definitely.’
JEFF GREEN, CAVS SMALL FORWARD WHO MADE THE PASS TO LEBRON: What was going through my mind? The same as every time I’m inbounding the ball at that time and moment: Don’t turn it over, I hope he catches it. And then once he caught it, I mean, hopefully it goes in.
JAMES: As a kid, you always have those “three-two-one” moments, and it being able to have one of those moments. That’s what it kind of felt like. Felt like I was a kid all over again. Just playing basketball at my house, makeshift hoops and my socks as a basketball. Making the [swish] noise.
JEFF CONTINI, CAVS SEASON-TICKET HOLDER SINCE 1983: I swear to God, the ball was hanging in the air for 10 minutes.
FRED MCLEOD, CAVS TV VOICE: I thought, I’ve seen this before — Orlando in 2009. [This time] he jumped into the arms of Cedi Osman instead of Anderson Varejao. Otherwise it was the same.
OSMAN: I was standing in a very good spot, so when he shoot the ball, I saw the ball going in. So I started running before that. And when the ball went in, when Bron turns, I was already there. I felt it. I knew that’s going in and I just started running towards him.
MANN: We were there in 2009, and we saw it again: a player putting an arena on his back and delivering. It’s an honor and privilege to see and experience greatness.
OLADIPO: Give him credit where credit is due. The 3 was big-time. Definitely huge. But who’s to say they even run that play? We don’t know what happens. It’s unfortunate.
NATE MCMILLAN, PACERS COACH: We had a timeout to talk about what we see out there, and we had a foul to give. We’re leaving here with both of them.
TYRONN LUE, CAVS COACH: I black out in those situations. You have the best player in the world on your team. If we get the ball to him, you know he’s capable of delivering. Another big shot he made for us.
CONTINI: I’m 55 years old, and it’s hard to get caught up in things at my age. But I was as excited as a little kid. And I loved seeing his reaction. I was thinking, he can’t ever leave this city. But how can you ask anything more of an athlete?
NATHANIEL BUTLER, NBA ENTERTAINMENT PHOTOGRAPHER WHO GOT THE ICONIC SHOT OF LEBRON JUMPING ON THE SCORER’S TABLE: As a fan, I love those shots. It’s not a game in the middle of February on a Tuesday night. This is money time. This is playoffs. And then, fortunately, just staying with LeBron. Him jumping on the table, I literally pushed the button once. When you’re shooting with strobes, you only get a frame once every four seconds.
JAMES: I’m going to let you guys do the ranking of where that fits in my playoff performances. It’s given us the lead in a playoff series and I think we played some really good basketball tonight, and for me to be able to make that shot and for us to be able to take the lead in the series — that’s what’s most important.