Following its alarming home loss in Game 5, the Heat faced elimination and LeBron James’s legacy was once again put on a fiery trial. On Wednesday’s Inside the NBA, the final of the season, Barkley spoke to James and the camera:
LeBron James, I love watching you play. It’s time you do your thing. I’ve been telling people – they don’t believe me; they’re living in the past – it’s your team. You are the best basketball player in the world. It’s time for you to say, ‘Hey guys. Get on my back. We’re going to win Game 6. We’re going to win Game 7.’ Don’t defer to anybody. You are the best. Quit listening to all this [garbage] you hear from all these reporters. You are the man.
I don’t know if LeBron watched Inside, or heard about Barkley’s plea, but he certainly carried his team on his back. Bill Simmons was in attendance and had this to say about it:
I don’t know what happened. I just know the shots wouldn’t stop going in. After about the fifth dagger in a row (he made 10 straight), the crowd started groaning on every make — shades of Philly’s Andrew Toney ripping our hearts out 30 years ago. If you’ve ever been in the building for one of those games, you know there isn’t a deadlier sound. He single-handedly murdered one of the giddiest Celtics crowds I can remember. Thirty points in the first half. Thirty! All with that blank look on his face. It was like watching surveillance video of a serial killer coldly dismembering a body and sticking the parts in the fridge. Only we were right there.
The 45 point, 15 rebound, 5 assist performance was probably the best I’ve ever seen in a Playoff game. At least if we’re talking about basketball. Minnesotans might remember similar heroics from its own GREATEST in the 1991 World Series.
Following Kirby’s untimely passing, Tim Kurkjian devoted an entire piece to that Game 6 masterpiece:
He had many games like it, but very few players have ever had a game like that in the World Series or the postseason, especially in an elimination game. It was right there with the best of Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, George Brett, Roberto Clemente, Brooks Robinson, Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson. It was the kind of unforgettable performance that elevates a player to legendary status. Puckett’s career numbers were Hall of Fame material, but Game 6 of the ’91 World Series went a long way in getting him into Cooperstown on the first ballot in 2001.
And the best part is, Puckett basically predicted it.
“I went to the clubhouse, and I gathered [everyone] up. I said, ‘Everybody together, we’re going to have a short meeting,’” Puckett said, retelling the story years later. “Everybody comes in, and I said, ‘Guys, I just have one announcement to make: You guys should jump on my back tonight. I’m going to carry us.’”
Then he did.
Every opportunity to remember GAME SIX should be taken. It, along with the somehow-not-anticlimactic-Game 7, is the best moment in Minnesota sports history. So there you go.
Big game tonight in Miami.