It’s maybe not the greatest argument for the excitement level of the 2018 NBA Finals that its most memorable moment — the one most likely to outlive all others from the nine-day championship round, and to pop to the forefront of our minds when we recall the Golden State Warriors’ third NBA title in four years — was J.R. Smith’s disastrous brain cramp in the closing seconds of the fourth quarter of Game 1.
On the off chance you don’t remember how it went down: After a brilliant 51-point performance by LeBron James, the Cleveland Cavaliers trailed by one point with 4.7 seconds left, and had point guard George Hill going to the line for a pair of free throws to give them the lead. Hill hit the first but missed the second, leaving the game knotted at 107 … only for Smith to beat Kevin Durant and Draymond Green into offensive rebounding position, grabbing the loose ball and giving Cleveland back possession with a chance to get one more shot at a chance to upset the heavily favored Warriors and steal home-court advantage in the Finals.
It didn’t work out that way:
Smith grabbed the rebound within arm’s reach of the rim but, for one reason or another, dribbled out of traffic all the way out past the 3-point arc before, at LeBron’s behest, he fired a pass to Hill in the corner. Hill couldn’t get a desperation shot off before the final buzzer. The game went to overtime tied at 107. The Warriors blew the doors off a spent and broken Cavs team in the extra frame, taking a 1-0 lead in the series.
This is heartbreaking! Long uncut footage of LeBron, JR Smith & George Hill after Smith's mistake in Game 1. pic.twitter.com/MplQoAkk0a
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) June 4, 2018
It was a mortifying moment for Smith, who played such a vital role in Cleveland’s 2016 NBA championship run, but whose contributions have fallen sharply over the past two seasons. It utterly deflated the Cavs, who came so close to springing a stunner on the defending champs, only to miss their best chance by virtue of a brutal blunder. It left James beside himself to an uncharacteristic degree; an unmoored LeBron punched a whiteboard in frustration after the game. It was, essentially, was the series. One week and one night later, Golden State finished off a sweep at Quicken Loans Arena.
For better or worse, Smith’s momentary freeze is something we’ll all remember … and, if you’re the sort who loves to pair physical memorabilia with those intangible memories, well, have I got some good news for you:
That’s right: the NBA is auctioning off the jersey that Smith wore during that Game 1 meltdown to the highest bidder. Whether you’re a Warriors fan looking to needle every Cavs supporter you ever see over the moment it all went south, a Clevelander hoping to perform some sort of emotional exorcism by performing a ritual that sends Smith’s jersey into an alternate dimension for all eternity, or just someone with a great deal of disposable income who can’t bear to live without a physical reminder of the importance of being aware of time, score and situation in all situations, your opportunity is here. (Part of me believes that the top bidder will wind up being Draymond Green, because he’ll need something to wear on opening night in October.)
Just so you know, though: game-worn clothing doesn’t come cheap, even — or perhaps especially — if it was prominently involved in a disaster. As of 1 p.m. ET on Monday, the top bid for J.R.’s tank top was $3,000, so if you’re interested in owning this piece of fractured history, you’ll need to come up with more than three stacks. If you’re so inclined, you’ve got until 9:50 p.m. ET on Thursday, June 21, to aggregate your bread. Good luck to you, swag hunters, and remember: if you get the chance to submit your bid before the final buzzer, don’t hesitate. Get a shot up, or prepare to live with the consequences.
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