King James in the clutch

LeBron hit his second game-winning shot of his playoff career tonight. In overtime. With 0.9 seconds left. Cutting through three defenders.

His other game-winner was in game 3, and now the Cavs are one win away from advancing (the series with Washington is 3-2). Maybe now the page 2 writers at ESPN.com will have to shutup, at least for a little while, about James not being able to take control of a game at the end. The kid has held up to his end of the hype amazingly well thus far. I know I sure as hell enjoy watching him play (even though I hate most everything else about the NBA’s variety of basketball–especially by comparison to college), and a lot of the times I forget he’s only 21 years old.

The NY Times posted an interesting article about James’ impact on the city of Cleveland on Sunday. Tangentially, you can read the inferences about why James is good for basketball, more specifically, the NBA. Superstars like James and leadership like the one-year-removed-from-high-school rule, which NBA Commissioner David Stern worked with the Player’s Association last year to pass, will lead to a healthier NBA. And we all want a healthier NBA because that leads to a healthier basketball in general. (And also makes it so we don’t get whomped next time in the ’08 Olympics).

But why should any of us (read: Carolina fans) care about this, you ask? It’s easy to get self-sequestered in our own little world of ACC college basketball. We’re pretty much the best basketball conference ever, regardless of what the Big East wonks want you to think. But the health of the sport in general has reflections and impacts on our little neck of the woods, too. If it weren’t for that one-year rule, we certainly wouldn’t be getting the blue-chip recruiting class we’ve got next season that’s making most of the early pollsters put us at No. 2 behind Florida, this year’s national champs who will return every major contributor except senior Adrian Moss.

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