He got away with one
LeBron James has been making superhuman feats of athleticism appear routine for nearly two decades now. Watching him throw home a vicious dunk or chase down a defender in the open court doesn’t feel startling as much as it feels familiar.
Eighteen years into his NBA career, he’ll still regularly do something every game that makes you stop and appreciate how special he is. In Sunday night’s loss to the Nuggets.
LeBron received a pass in his own end, breezed right by four Denver players who apparently had no interest in defending him, going coast-to-coast with a grand total of two dribbles, and proceeded to dunk it from just in front of the free-throw line.
That LeBron, at age 36, is still able to dunk when taking off from 13 feet away, is ridiculous. Too bad he traveled.
If you slow it down, you can see that LeBron dribbles right around the halfcourt line and gathers near the top of the key. He takes one step two feet behind the free-throw line, another two feet in front of it and takes flight.
The NBA amended the rulebook in 2019 to better address instances of players gathering their dribble. The gather is defined as when a player “gains enough control of the ball to hold it, change hands, pass, shoot, or cradle it against his body.” For the purposes of determining whether a player has traveled, “The first step occurs when a foot, or both feet, touch the floor after the player gathers the ball.”
In LeBron’s case, he begins the gather in the middle of a step. He has both hands on the ball right before his left foot hits the ground at the top of the key. By rule, that’s his first step. So his second step is the one right behind the free-throw line, which makes the one in the paint his third. That’s a travel.
It’s still a nasty dunk, though.
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