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“Gregg Popovich put the clamps on LeBron James in the 2007 NBA Finals”: The Spurs sent a 22-year old LBJ back to the drawing board

Arjun Julka
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"Gregg Popovich put the clamps on LeBron James in the 2007 NBA Finals": The Spurs sent a 22-year old LBJ back to the drawing board

The 2007 NBA Finals was a turning point in the trajectory of LeBron James, who had till then used his gifted athleticism as the primary tool of his offense.

One of the greatest to ever pick up the basketball, LeBron James defied all norms of athleticism. Standing at 6″9′, James moved like a point guard, dishing out incredible assists and moving with extreme agility. Drafted straight from high school, James had the pressure of the world.

Nevertheless, the eighteen-year-old James had turned into a man in his adolescence. Unlike the 90s, the media had become much more scrutinizing in nature with the onset of a paparazzi culture. Despite all the noise, the Cavs forward would live up to all the expectations, winning the ROTY.

The young rookie put the small market Cleveland franchise on the globe. James ended the eight-year postseason drought of the Cavaliers in 2006 but was ousted in the semi-finals by the Pistons. However, it was a stepping stone for James.

Also read: “I would’ve never asked Larry Bird or Magic Johnson to join me!”: When Michael Jordan took a shot at LeBron James for forming a superteam with Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh in Miami

The 2006-07 season was a crucial juncture in the career of LBJ, with his first appearance in the Finals being a bitter-sweet moment.

Gregg Popovich and his men gave LeBron James a taste of the Finals.

After being eliminated at the hands of the Pistons in the 2006 playoffs, James and co would have the perfect revenge defeating the likes of Chauncey Billups and Rashid Wallace in the ECF. A 22-year old James would clinch his first Finals berth.

Unfortunately, the moment didn’t last for long, with the Spurs sweeping the James and co in four games. At the time, Coach Pop’s crew comprised Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili in their primes. The Spurs had figured out a way to contain James, forcing him to play outside his comfort zone.

James averaged 22.0 PPG, 7.0 RPG, and 6.8 APG in the Finals. The Cavs superstar averaged 5.8 TPG and shot a poor 35.6% from the field and 20.0% from the 3-point line. James, who at the time relied on his ability to play in the paint, couldn’t get past Coach Pop’s designed defense.

The situation would force the Cavs forward to move on the less trodden paths of midrange and 3-point shooting. The series highlighted how James relied heavily on his gifted athleticism and didn’t develop other facets of his game.

Also read: “LeBron James is now out of the race, and Michael Jordan is officially GOAT!”: Aries Spears makes a shocking claim on Lakers star’s season and what bearing it could have on legacy

However, LBJ has a much more mature game today, having developed a good mid-range. Not many know that it was James who introduced the logo shot.

About the author

Arjun Julka

Arjun Julka

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Arjun Julka is a NBA author at The SportsRush. Basketball isn’t just a sport for this 26-year-old, who hails from Mumbai. He began watching the sport after stumbling upon a court in his society, helping him identify an undiscovered passion for the game of hoops. Now an ardent fan, Arjun supports Stephen Curry and the Warriors but also enjoys watching Giannis Antetokounmpo own the paint. When it comes to the GOAT debate, the TSR author feels LeBron James is yet to receive a lot of his due but cannot deny marveling at Michael Jordan’s resume.

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