If the Heat raise another championship banner to the rafters, perhaps it'll be because LeBron James's hairline got up there first.
Basketball, maybe more than any other sport, is subject to the whims of randomness. A roll here, a bounce there, and everything that's happened could have happened otherwise. (Josh Levin and Henry Abbott have tackled this question.) But that's no fun. We need totems. We need shorthand. We need narrative. So we choose to believe that the Heat launched two unlikely comebacks in the fourth quarter, LeBron beasting all the while, because he lost his headband.
The iconic headband came off with nine minutes left in the game, tangled up in the net as LeBron slammed home an errant Mario Chalmers fadeaway.
A few possessions later, a spectacular block on Tim Duncan, a driving layup, and the game was tied.
Why didn't he replace the headband? Could he not find it? Does he not have others? Or was this one of those immortal moments, like Curt Schilling's sock, where reason takes backseat to the power of laundry?
“I guess the headband was the least of my worries at that point," LeBron said.
If you can argue with the Samsonic potential of accessories, you can't dispute the numbers. With the headband, LeBron played 36 minutes and scored 20 points, with seven rebounds and no blocks. Without it, 14 minutes, 12 points, three rebounds, and one massive block.
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He plain looked strange without the headband; I hadn't realized how inseparable he'd become from it. I mean, we knew he's got a forehead the size of George Washington. We knew you could hide pennies in his wrinkles. But I wasn't prepared to have to actively search for him on the court. “I’ve never seen him play without his headband that long, since his rookie year,” Dwyane Wade said.
Here's the thing: it looked good. It looked right. The best player in the world shouldn't look like a rec leaguer. When LeBron cast off his stretchy, absorbant yoke, he looked like a man prepared to take over a game. Furrows and baldness just added another layer of fearsomeness to the guy no one wants to guard.
Now, the question becomes: will he wear the headband in Game 7? Will he ever wear it again? Will he start games with it, only to fling it off when he needs to go Super Saiyan? These are the things Doris Burke should have asked about.
Oh, and we should probably mention this before we get to writing about the magic powers of Mike Miller's shoe: LeBron James, in the running for the greatest basketball player ever, yet saddled with a reputation for failing to come through in the clutch, took over and dominated the fourth quarter of a finals elimination game. Wonder if that'll count for something. Nah. It was totally the headband.