BOSTON – A short lay-up in the second quarter in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals put LeBron James into basketball immortality on Thursday.
The shot, which was contested by Marcus Smart and put the Cavaliers up 66-46 with 3:43 until halftime, clinched LeBron’s status as the best basketball player who has ever lived.
The game was stopped and Michael Jordan presented LeBron with George Mikan’s smoking jacket, which has been handed down by the pantheon of players since the Minneapolis Lakers became the first G.O.A.T.
“It’s an honor to be here for such a big moment,” Jordan said as commissioner Adam Silver put the jacket on James. “I remember when Kareem was there in Philly in 1996 when I passed him, so it’s important I be here for LeBron’s moment when it became clear to everyone that he’s the best that’s ever played.”
James thanked media members and fans for not discussing the possibility of him passing Jordan out of respect for the moment when he officially did it.
“We live in a time of such great perspective and respect for nuance, and I appreciate how this was handled by people on the outside,” James said. “Like Skip Bayless said so eloquently on TV this morning, ‘When the time comes that he’s the best, we’ll just know.’ And now we know.”
Even Celtics fans at TD Garden applauded their rival for reaching the feat.
“We knew this day would come sometime and he finally did it,” Boston season ticket holder Jack Sullivan said. “I was there the night Bill Russell put the jacket on Kareem and that was special, a lot like in ’86 when Gordie Howe presented Gretzky with the Eddie Shore elbow pads.”