The 2007 NBA Finals won’t go down as one of LeBron James’ finest moments in the NBA, but that series had a profound impact on James’ game. Over a decade later, James credits the San Antonio Spurs’ defense in that series for making him a better shooter.
James, 34, revealed that nugget following the Los Angeles Lakers’ 114-104 win over the Spurs on Monday. James dropped 33 points on San Antonio. He hit 4-7 three-point attempts, moving him to No. 18 on the all-time career 3-pointers list.
After the game, James spoke about his sharpshooting, crediting the Spurs for making him a better player, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN.
"I just want to be able to not have any weaknesses, you know, and allow a defense to dictate what I do," James told Spectrum Sports after the game. "Because of the Spurs, in a lot of my early years, [they are] part of the reason why my jump shot is a lot better today. My first Finals appearance in '07, they went under on everything and I didn't shoot the ball, I wasn't comfortable with shooting the ball at that point in time in my career. So I give a lot of thanks to their scheme, a lot of thanks to a lot of other teams that I went against."
James was held in check by the Spurs in 2007. Over four games, he averaged 22 points. In the regular season, James averaged 27.3 points. Three pointers played a role in James’ struggles. He took 20 threes during the series, but only made two of them. The Spurs swept James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in four games.
Did that loss really motivate James to work harder on improving his shot? The stats suggest James is telling the truth. Prior to the 2007 NBA Finals, James shot .493 on two-point attempts and .327 from beyond the arc. Since then, James has shot .570 on two-pointers and .349 on threes. There are other factors involved in James’ improvement — like experience and supporting cast — but his story contains elements of truth.
James didn’t need the help. Prior to that series, James was already a well-regarded superstar. He may have taken that extra step forward even without extra motivation from the Spurs.
Still, that anecdote reveals quite a bit about James’ approach to the game. He didn’t sulk after a poor series, he used it as a way to improve as a player.
That trait is the reason he’s considered one of the best — if not the best — to ever play the game.
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