LeBron James did not want to relive Game 1 of the NBA Finals, when Cleveland lost to Golden State in overtime after a blunder by JR Smith cost the Cavaliers a chance at winning the game in regulation.
But a video released earlier this week — showing James’ devastated reaction as he realized the Cavaliers had a timeout remaining as Smith lost track of the score and dribbled out the final seconds rather than take a potential game-winning shot — caused James to relent while talking to reporters on Tuesday.
“It went viral?” James said of the video. “Damn cameras. I haven’t seen it. I’m not on social media right now. I finally got Game 1 out of my head. You’re taking me back, huh? OK. OK. Let me put myself back there.”
In the video, James is seen on the Cavaliers’ bench before the start of overtime, asking coach Tyronn Lue if the Cavaliers had any timeouts they could have used at the end of regulation. When Lue told him that they did, James buried his head in his hands and remained in that position for several seconds. After sitting up, the four-time league most valuable player appeared to be on the verge of tears.
James explained Tuesday that he initially avoided calling a timeout while Smith was running out the clock because he wasn’t sure the Cavaliers had one and he didn’t want to be called for a technical foul, similar to what happened with Michigan’s Chris Webber at the end of the 1993 NCAA championship game against North Carolina.
Eventually James signaled for a timeout but didn’t receive one.
“I actually tried to call time out .... I don’t know if I had enough time because I was kind of a little bit still in shock of what was going on at that point in time,” James said. “I got to the bench, first thing that came to my mind I was like, ‘OK, I was calling a timeout.’ … Maybe if we didn’t have any, I’m glad they didn’t give it to me. I didn’t want another C-Webb incident. If that happened, then they go to make their free throws and the game is over.
“So I asked our coaching staff if we had a timeout. And they told me, yes. I guess y’all probably seen the reaction from that point on.”
Lue told reporters the Cavaliers were aware they had a timeout but chose not to use it to prevent Golden State from making substitutions for the final play.
“End of the game, we all knew we had a timeout left,” Lue said. “So no problem with the communication.”
Earlier in the video, James can be seen sitting alone on the Cavaliers bench, not interacting with anyone for more than 90 seconds.
“I was sitting on the bench and kind of just contemplating the last couple seconds of what just happened ...” James said. “So, there were a lot of things playing through my head.”
On Tuesday, James gave reporters a sarcastic answer when asked about the perception that he’s not behaving like a team leader at that point in the video.
“Me? Me being criticized? No,” James said. “You’re saying I got criticized for something, right? I don’t believe that. Not me.”
He added: “I don’t care. I don’t care at all. I mean, we’re in the NBA Finals. How much more picking up of teammates do you want me to do? I’m in the NBA Finals, looking for a championship.”