CLEVELAND - There are moments in NBA Finals history - plenty of which have already been authored by LeBron James - that embed themselves in our minds, indelible images that only the game's Goliaths seem capable of producing.
James would surely prefer that his latest such highlight came with his team a win away from another championship as opposed to a loss away from another Finals elimination, but there's still no denying the instantly iconic status of James going off the glass for a self alley-oop - and inadvertently posterizing teammate Tristan Thompson - in the third quarter of Friday's Game 4 against the Golden State Warriors.
The play left tens of thousands of fans, pundits, teammates, and foes alike at Quicken Loans Arena scratching their heads and collecting their jaws off the hardwood. Here's how James himself and some of his Cleveland Cavaliers teammates recalled the unbelievable display of athleticism in the moments following the Game 4 victory.
LeBron James: I think I was - it was a transition play, and I believe it was Kyle (it was actually Kevin Love, not Korver) on my right side that was running the wing, and two of their players were back and I was just trying to engage one of them so I could get Kyle a shot in the corner, and they both went to Kyle, I believe, and I got caught in the air. So that's the only thing I could think of. I didn't want to travel, and Draymond (Green) was kind of playing Double T (Tristan Thompson), and Double T kind of had his back towards me, so I just threw it off the glass and went and got it.
Tristan Thompson: I was trying to get the offensive rebound for a putback, but he jumped higher than me to get a running start. Hey, I'd rather it be my teammate who gets a putback on me than the other guys.
J.R. Smith: 'What the hell are you doing?' You see that in the park so much growing up, but you never really think about somebody doing it in a game. To do it in a Finals game, in Game 4, when you're down 3-0 ... I'm just glad he connected.
He dunked on Tristan. That was the craziest part of it. He had the whole lane until Tristan came in there. He's a Gatorade baby, man ... he was made in a lab somewhere, or something. There's a lot of things he does that we can't speak for.
Kyle Korver: It was an amazing play. It's funny, because when he was caught in the air, I was thinking like 'just go off the backboard and catch it,' because we've seen so many times what he can do, in practice and even in games. And he just did it (laughs). He was caught in the air, was like, 'What do I do?' He looked around, took his time, made a decision, and decided to throw it off the backboard, and went and dunked it.
Richard Jefferson: When I came into the league, lots of guys used to do that. Jamal Crawford, T-Mac, Kobe used to do it. LeBron's got that in him. I think that play, he was forced to do that, because he lifted the ball up, and (the Warriors) do a great job of - once you pick up your dribble, they get back to their man, so the only thing he had, literally, was to throw it off the backboard and go. It's great to know you have the ability to do that when that opportunity calls.