The Shot That Changed Everything found the perfect hands. Nobody who ever played basketball has made more three-point baskets than Ray Allen, after all. You know how shooters say they are sure the moment the ball leaves their hands if the shot is good? That they know it by instinct and feel?
Allen has never been one of those seers.
He had no idea, just like the rest of us, as his shot in the closing seconds of regulation floated in the air for those moments that felt like forever.
“You get the ball in the air and you become numb, because you don’t know,” he was saying Wednesday, reliving it. “The ball has a mind of its own at that point.”
His own family tried to get Ray to confide that he knew all along his shot would make a downtown arena erupt, send the game into overtime and save the Heat’s season.
“Nope. I never pre-celebrate,” he told them. “Seen too many shots that felt good rattle the rim and go out.”
This one caressed the nylon net, sent South Florida into paroxysms of joy, and led us right back by the bay for Thursday’s night winner-take-all Game 7 of these NBA Finals.
“The moment is going to be grand,” said LeBron James.
We still marvel at how it came to be. Players explain the capriciousness of their sport by referring to “the basketball gods.” I never thought they existed. Now I do.
Now I believe they were hovering over the arena toward the end of Tuesday’s Game 6 as midnight rolled in, and they were smiling down. They were dressed in all white. One had tattoos and a Mohawk. It looked like the other was wearing LeBron James’ discarded headband.
Even Heat players could hardly believe the small miracle that had occurred.
“We were laughing at some of the things that happened,” said Shane Battier. “An historic finish.”
Torture and ecstasy and torture and ecstasy.
Said LeBron: “In my own household my wife was like, ‘Would you please stop doing that to me!’ ”
Fractions of an inch. Slivers of a second. Chris Bosh’s fingertips brushing an opponent’s shot. A three-pointer that does not rattle the rim or go out, but instead makes you believe in magic.
These are the things that changed everything.
LeBron’s huge fourth quarter made it possible, but still, if Allen’s desperation shot is anything but perfect — if a confluence of many small things doesn’t happen — then everything changes.
These are the things that made Wednesday a buoyant look-ahead for a confident Heat team, instead of a sudden media post-mortem on a still-warm body.
These are the things that allowed a repeat-championship and the notion of a dynasty to still be in play today, instead of the conversation veering darkly to the future of the Big 3 and whether the whole blueprint will be torched.
These are the things that provided LeBron the luxury to talk about something silly on this bridge-day to Game 7 — like playing without a headband — instead of being forced to explain what went wrong and if it was his fault and whether his legacy was ruined and so forth and so on.
A headband! Imagine.
His trademark apparatus got knocked late in the game and he didn’t put it back on and it became such a topic of debate that “#NoHeadband” soon was trending on Twitter.