Before we get into what was the best individual basketball performance I have ever witnessed in person, you have to understand the context of Game 6 2012. Saying those words will for sure trigger every Celtics fan in existence and I know this to be true because I am extremely triggered as I am typing. The 2011-12 season was weird because of the lockout, and the Celt's Big 3 Era was for sure on its last legs. Ray was 36, KG 35, and Pierce 34. You look at that roster and there's a reason they went 39-27 and had the 27th ranked offense in the entire league. Their bread and butter was still their elite defense, coming in 1st in Drtg and that was how they survived.
They took care of ATL in 6 games and then the Sixers in 7 in the second round (a Sixers second round playoff loss, shocking I know!) which gave them another shot at MIA. This was a Heat team that took care of BOS in 5 games the year before. It started out with the Heat winning convincingly at home in Game 1, and then only by 4 points in Game 2 while we saw MIA take 47 FTA. In fact, LeBron took 24 compared to 29 for the whole Celtics team. That's just how things went though, you had to know that LeBron in MIA was going to get a shit ton of calls.
When the series shifted to Boston, LeBron didn't get that same whistle and the Heat came up short. Just 20 team FTA in Game 3 which the Celts won by 10 and then a 2 point win in OT in Game 4. Things were all tied up for the all important Game 5. Around 75% of teams that win Game 5 go on to win the series. Back in MIA, LeBron and Wade combined for 57 points, they were beasts. But KG held things down with 26/11 and when it came time to make a big shot on the road to steal a game, Pierce made one of the biggest threes in his career
Which set them up to go back to the Garden where they hadn't lost in the series up 3-2 with a spot in the Finals on the line. I remember being in the stands that night nervous as fuck. Not just because of what was at stake that night, but because my Dad and I were close enough to where we could see LeBron's face during warmups. I remember it clear as day even all these years later. I had never seen LeBron look like that in any potential Celts matchup at the Garden. To say he was on a mission would be an understatement. You just knew in your gut that above all else, he was going to be a problem that night. It felt like he knew his entire legacy was on the line in that Game 6. That's how he played, it's really the only way I can describe it. After losing in the 2011 Finals, if he once again lost to the Celtics in an ECF, a team that was the reason he had to go to MIA in the first place, who knows how history looks back on him.
LeBron started the first quarter 6 for 7 and the Heat got off to a 26-16 lead. There was not a Celtic on the roster who could stop him from getting to where he wanted to go. With each make there was that nervous groan you never want to hear. We knew what we were watching. Then things got to the second quarter. LeBron once again went 6 for 7 from the floor. In 24 first half minutes LeBron went 12-14 and had 30 points. 30 points!! You look up at the scoreboard and see the Celts are only down 13 and you start doing the mental gymnastics about how to come back. I mean no other Heat player had more than 6 points at the half. Maybe he'll calm down and everyone else will be rusty.
In the third quarter LeBron came out and went 5-8 for 11 points. By now the Celts were down 13 heading into the fourth, and things didn't feel great. They went 1-14 from three in that Game 6. Terrible time to go cold in my opinion. By the final buzzer LeBron threw up 45/15/5 on 19-26 shooting (73%) and 2-4 from deep.
That was a version of LeBron the league had never seen before and at the time was without a doubt the best performance of his career. It was a slow painful death watching him dominate the way he did, because everyone in the building knew it was coming before the opening tip. He had this look of determination that sent chills down your spine. As we would come to learn over the years, this would not be the last time LeBron broke some hearts in the Garden.
Back in MIA for Game 7 and you'll never believed what happened. LeBron took 17 FTA to the Celtics entire team of 15. Shane motherfucking Battier came out and went 4-9 from three. Chris Bosh went 3-4 from three off the bench. Bosh had not made a single three all series before that game. Battier made a combined 5 threes in the three previous games.
I've seen a handful of incredible postseason performances in the Garden during my lifetime. There was Pierce's battle in Game 7 in 2010 against LeBron, there was pretty much everything Isaiah did in 2016. But to this day I don't think I've ever seen anything quite like what LeBron did in Game 6 in 2012. Credit to me once again for being able to admit that. Also credit to me for even blogging this and not just ignoring it like I try and do every year. You see, it's not just all butterflies and lollipops in the blog game. Sometimes you have to blog shit that ruined your life.
In my opinion, this is the performance that changed the rest of LeBron's career. That stare man, that shit is going to haunt me until my last breath.