The Los Angeles Lakers were rolling, already up 21 points on the Houston Rockets in the second quarter on Tuesday, when LeBron James took the display of domination to another, ridiculous level.
After catching a feed in the corner in front of the Lakers’ bench, James used a pump fake to line up a 3-pointer when he heard a voice in his ear coming from behind him. It was Lakers point guard Dennis Schroder.
“I told him to bet a Benjamin on it, so he shot it,” Schroder said after L.A.’s 117-100 win. “Shot it and turned around and said, ‘Bet.’ Then, it went in. It’s just legendary.”
LeBron James says Dennis Schroder bet that he wouldn’t make a no-look 3 as he was shooting. He also addresses comparisons to Steph Curry’s no-look 3-pointers.
It wasn’t just making a 3 over Ben McLemore to double-up the Rockets’ score 48-24 that was memorable. It was the delivery. You see, James turned to face Schroder to collect the $100 while the ball was still in the air.
“I took the bet while I was still shooting the ball,” James said, finishing with 26 points as the Lakers improved their league-best record to 9-3. “A bet isn’t official until you look a man in the eye, so I had to look him into the eye, and I was able to win that.”
There was an immediate appreciation for the showmanship by James’ teammates.
“He’s one of the greatest to play this game, and the things that he does is always crazy to watch in real time,” said Kyle Kuzma.
In a sport in which players are taught to follow their shot from a young age, what James did is not something you see too often. Gilbert Arenas once broke it out on a game-winning 3. Former Lakers guard Nick Young, famously, had the move backfire on him when his shot rimmed out. And Stephen Curry, considered to be the greatest shooter the game has ever known, will pull it off every so often.
“Steph [has] definitely probably done it the most in our league, and when you shoot the ball as beautiful and effortlessly and precisely as Steph does, he has the ultimate, ultra-green light to do that,” James said of his former NBA Finals foe. “‘Cause 10 times out of nine, it’s going in for Steph.”
And James, who went 4-for-9 from 3 on Tuesday — busting out of a 1-for-11 stretch in his past two games from deep — has the green light, too. Whether it be spinning around while the ball is midflight or pulling up from the logo to let it fly, as he has done with increasing frequency.
“We’re encouraging him to beat defenses over the top,” said Lakers coach Frank Vogel. “There’s multiple reasons for that: (A) he’s probably the best shooter on our team. And (B) they play him softly. They go under screens on him. … In terms of the ‘four-point-range’ shots that he takes, he’s got a green light to take those because he makes them.”
James’ no-look 3 made the free-falling Rockets — now 3-6 after losing four out their past five — look silly.
“It doesn’t feel good. Sure doesn’t,” Houston coach Stephen Silas said. “They’re obviously a together group, and they’re having fun at our expense. So, it doesn’t feel good at all, and we should take umbrage. It’s like they’re dancing on our home court. We’ve just got to fight. We’ve got to fight through it.”
The Lakers’ bench erupted after the shot went in, with several of James’ teammates chasing him down the court as he sprinted back on defense. Vogel and James said part of the team’s mission this season is to rebuild the chemistry that helped carry them to the championship last year. Moments like that bring the group together.
“Everybody had fun,” Schroder said. “Everybody was talking about it, even during timeouts. It was just a hell of a play.”
ESPN’s Tim MacMahon contributed to this report.