December 30, 2009, was just another day in the life of many folks. Some people had something amazing happen, while for others, it was just another 24 hours. But in Cleveland, it was an absolutely magical evening.
The 2009-10 season would, unfortunately, be LeBron James’ final one before bolting for the Heat. But on December 30th, on his 25th birthday, something amazing happened. Anderson Varejao did something he hadn’t done in his first six years, and would not do again in the NBA.
He made a three-pointer. And it was a go-ahead shot to break a tie with 17 seconds left. Let’s break it all down in this week’s edition of Flashback Friday.
Setting the Stage
The night of Varejao’s shot marked a big game for the Cavs. They entered action with a 25-8 record and were looking to prove they were the alpha dogs in the East. They were facing a 21-9 Hawks team that had been playing tremendous ball entering into the contest.
Both of these teams believed that it could be their year. The Celtics and Magic had a lot of talent, but perhaps it could be overcome. Getting back to it, this was a game that was close until the final whistle. Cleveland took possession with about 40 seconds left, and the score was all tied.
And of course, as the shot clock was dwindling, nobody expected Anderson Varejao to catch the ball at the three-point line.
The Circumstances of the Shot
With 24 seconds remaining and only eight on the shot clock, LeBron James had the ball in the post. He was being covered tightly, so he kicked it out to Mo Williams. He dribbled to the left, but fumbled the ball and lost his dribble.
Being guarded tightly by Mike Bibby, he fired the ball to Anderson Varejao with just four seconds left on the shot clock. Daniel Gibson ran behind him for a potential catch-and-shoot, but it didn’t appear that Andy had enough time to make a pass.
He leaned in and surprisingly fired the shot up.
Nothing but the Bottom
With 17.2 seconds remaining in the game, Varejao’s shot fell through. Nothing but the bottom of the net; a swish. This being LeBron’s birthday, the game likely meant a great deal to the whole team. He likely had big plans afterward, so winning made things sweeter.
And so after Atlanta called a timeout, Varejao got a huge hug from James. Other than when he tackled the winner of a half-court shot giveaway with the Heat, this was the biggest embrace we had ever seen him provide somebody on a basketball court.
The Only Make of His Career
Anderson Varejao appeared in 632 NBA games across a 14-year career. He logged over 15,000 minutes in the regular season and another 1700 in the playoffs. In all, he attempted 48 three-pointers. Guess how many of them he made? One.
That’s right. All of the years he was in the league, and that game-winning three vs. Atlanta was the only one that ever went in. Pretty crazy, isn’t it?
Box Score from the Game
Joe Johnson led the Hawks with 35 points for the night, while Mike Bibby added 20 points and six assists. Jamal Crawford had 11 points on a disappointing 3-12.
On the other side, LeBron had a heck of a game. The birthday boy finished with 48-10-6 on 15-23 shooting (4-6 3PT). Mo Williams had 14 points and 10 assists. And Varejao wound up with 14 points, nine rebounds, and three blocks. And the biggest basket of his career.
Cleveland outscored Atlanta 29-16 in the fourth quarter, winning a game in which they trailed by 12 at the half.
Thank You for Reading
Well, you’ve made it to the end! Thank you for reading. I’ve been enjoying putting these Flashback Friday pieces together in recent weeks, as a nice form of reminiscing.
I hope that the nostalgia you were craving could be met by reading