Somewhere in the avalanche of numbers that made Monday night in Miami forever, a moment so historic for the 250,000 people inside American Airlines Arena to watch LeBron James hit 61 without an asterisk, or at least the 250,000 who years from now will be claiming they were there, is the part about how it wasn’t just a moment.
Eight three-pointers in a game, tying a career high originally set in February 2009, yes, that was atypical. But there is years of evidence of James as a decent threat behind the arc, even if few noticed because he was busy being so LeBron at getting to the rim, defending, seeing the court better than most point guards and rebounding. You know, everything else.
Plus, he’s on a team with other well-known 3-point shooters. Ray Allen is an all-timer from that range and Mario Chalmers is technically the team leader in 3-point percentage (39.0). Shane Battier was sixth in the league in 3-point percentage (43.0) last season, while Allen was tied for 15th (41.9 pct), Mike Miller was tied for 17th (41.7 pct) and Chalmers was 25th (40.9 pct). There is also James’ fraction of regression (40.6 pct in 2012-13 to 38.4 pct this season) from deep. It is one of the few times in his life, and not just on the court, that James does not have a commanding presence.
He has built a respectable 3-point game, though, when overpowering the world when an unfair combination of speed and size would have been enough to rule the world. Defenses try – OK, hope and pray – that he takes aim from the arc, but only because it beats the alternative of James doing the locomotive thing to the basket.
In his first eight seasons, seven in Cleveland and the inaugural campaign in Miami, James broke 35 percent once, 2004-05 with the Cavaliers. He was mostly in the low-30s, with the attempts per game going up even while the success rate did not.
In his last three seasons: 36.2 percent (2011-12), 40.6 (2012-13) and 38.4 (2013-14). He has become more selective, with 3.3 attempts a game during the career-high season compared to the run of 4.7 or more four times in five campaigns in some of those times in the low-30s.
Monday night, it was eight makes in10 tries and one of his Bobcats victims, coach Steve Clifford, saying: “If he’s going to step behind from that length and score, it’s over.”
Simultaneously, LeBron’s 61 points and his tying a career high for 3-pointers was both a singular moment … and a big-picture message.