The “LeBron as cyborg” trope may get old with repetition, but it’s also just ... true? It is true. We’ve been presented with more evidence that he is a post-human basketball genius than otherwise. And while it’s hard to add anything truly novel to the conversation about James, it does happen occasionally—usually when a reporter catches a glimpse of source code, and susses out what makes him so effective. That’s how we learn of his photographic memory, or his knack for making instantaneous decisions based on specific possessions that he’s catalogued with that memory, or his tendency to hit defensive spots faster than SportVU would anticipate for an ideal human, or what have you.
ESPN’s Brian Windhorst often delivers these little revelations on a platter, and today he repeated the feat with a piece on LeBron’s shift away from shooting (career-low 17.2 field goal attempts per game) and towards passing (career-high 9.7 assists per game). As someone who prefers Point Bron to all other versions, I am pleased by this latest software update, and by these quotes:
“It’s my responsibility to know how my guys want the ball,” James said.
“If they like it with no seams or with the seams. I know that might not make sense — some guys like it different ways. I get the ball right in my hand before I throw it. I know the guys on my team like seams or guys who like the ball high when they catch it. I know guys who like it low or midsection. I know where everyone wants the ball, and I just try to put it there on time and on target. All they have to do is catch and fire. It’s those guys working on their craft that allows me to do that.”
It’s strange enough to watch him sling frozen ropes cross-court through traffic, but stranger still to realize he’s adjusting the seams in his hands before launching. Point guards talking about firing passes into a teammate’s preferred shooting pocket is nothing new, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a player claim that they orient the seams on the ball to fit each shooter’s preferences. In any case, it’s absurd that James even has time to think about something like that given everything else going on in his brain during a normal possession.
Some part of me struggles to believe that this is true, but I don’t really trust my mortal eye to pick up on the subtlety, at least not without some careful slow-mo review.