You don’t have to be a fan of LeBron James, the Miami Heat or even professional basketball to be inspired by and appreciate the “life-significance” of what happened in the final 28.2 seconds of Game 6 of the NBA Finals between the Heat and the San Antonio Spurs. Let me try and set the stage, recognizing that words could never effectively capture the moment. The Spurs were leading the best of 7 series 3 games to 2 and, having played nearly flawless basketball for 47 minutes and 32 seconds of Game 6, found themselves with a 5 point lead with only 28.2 seconds left in the game. 28.2 seconds – the approximate time it takes an Olympic breaststroker to swim 1 length of the pool! How high was the mountain? High enough that thousands of Heat fans began pouring out of the American Airlines Arena certain that their team had lost the Championship. High enough that the powers that be in the National Basketball Association wheeled out the Larry O’Brien Trophy awarded each year to the NBA champions. High enough that security forces began gathering around the perimeter of the court and readying the yellow tape needed to facilitate the awards ceremony. For all intents and purposes this one was already in the books – it was, in sports parlance, the basketball equivalent to Jean Van De Velde standing on the 18th tee on the final day of the 1999 British Open Championship at Carnoustie with a 3-shot lead over his nearest competitor (http://tinyurl.com/lz56ncb).
“I noticed it,” James would say after the game. “All of us saw the championship board already out [on the court], the yellow tape. That motivated us to play the game to the final buzzer.” Dwyane Wade echoed his talented teammate’s remarks: “When they brought out that yellow rope and you know you’re not the one that’s going to celebrate . . . you just have to keep fighting and believing.” And fight and believe the Heat players did – all of them. With time ticking away, James hurried back down the court and sank a long 3-point shot to pull the Heat within 2 points (94-92) with only 20.1 seconds left. Miami then immediately fouled the Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard, sending him to the free throw line for 2 shots. Uncharacteristically, Leonard, an 82% free throw shooter, missed the first, but made the second, giving the Spurs a 3-point lead with 15.4 seconds to play. The Heat scurried back down the court, where, with 11.2 seconds left, James hoisted an errant 3 point shot – and then the magic happened. Somehow Heat forward Chris Bosh out-hustled 3 Spurs’ defenders to secure the rebound just as guard Ray Allen was instinctively back-peddling to the 3-point line on the baseline. Seemingly in the same motion, Allen received an outlet pass from Bosh, elevated and with only 5.2 seconds showing on the clock, nailed a 3-pointer that tied the game and sent it into overtime! The Heat went on to prevail in the extra session (103 -100) and won Game 7 to repeat as NBA Champions.
Sooner or later, all of us or someone we love or both will have our own “Game 6 moment” – a time (or times) when our resolve, our metal, our very desire to survive will be tested to their absolute limits. We will come face-to-face with obstacles that, by all objective measures, will appear wholly insurmountable. When those moments arise, we too will realize, as did the Heat players, that there is no getting around the challenge; that, unlike others in our lives (friends, business associates, family members, etc.), who, for whatever reason (e.g., fear, selfishness, weakness, etc.) may choose to “abandon” us, we are “stuck” in the arena. There is no turning back for us. I only hope that when those moments come each of us will ultimately be able to set aside our fears and respond with the same belief-in-self, commitment and “never-say-die” perseverance that was on display for the entire world to see at the AA Arena last Tuesday night. I wish I could “guarantee” that if you will only do that all of the pieces required for you to come out on top (however improbable) will fall neatly into place, as they did during those epic final 28.2 seconds in Game 6. Obviously, I can’t. But I can promise you this: They will never fall into place without you doing it. That being the case, why not take your best shot? Ray Allen did!