It was one of the most memorable plays from one of the most memorable games of the season for the Celtics. In the third quarter of the team’s impressive, 32-point drubbing of the Lakers at the TD Garden on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, forward Jaylen Brown put the ball on the floor out by the 3-point line and drove to the rim against guard Danny Green.
With Green on his hip, Brown saw Lakers star LeBron James slide over to help in the paint. Brown went up and dunked on James with two hands.
Looking back on it, Brown said that the reaction he got from the play says just about as much for James’ star power as it does for the play itself.
“LeBron’s one of the people that is special in this game, for sure, no doubt about it,” Brown told ESPN during a live stream. “To be able to make a highlight play and compete against him has been great, an honor. For me it makes me think that I want to be in that position. Somebody like him, you make one play and everybody’s going to talk about it, fans are going to send you—it’s not a bad position to be in, on either side. So, shoutout to LeBron.”
Brown has a History vs. LeBron James
Brown, in his fourth NBA season, has made a big leap forward, averaging a career-best 20.4 points. He is also averaging 6.4 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 49.0 percent shooting, and 73.6 percent free-throw shooting, all of which are career highs, too.
Already in his short career, he has had many a brush with James’ greatness as a player. Twice in his four seasons the Celtics were eliminated from the playoffs by James, when James was still playing for Cleveland.
It was against the Cavs as a rookie that Brown got his biggest taste of the playoffs, in the Eastern Conference finals. After playing sporadically in the first two rounds (10.8 minutes), Brown played 17.0 minutes per game against Cleveland, often matching up against James. The Cavs blew the Celtics away in the series, though, winning in five games, including two wins of more than 30 points.
In his second season, the Celtics got hot in the playoffs despite playing without Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving, which allowed Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Terry Rozier to blossom. The Celtics beat Milwaukee and Washington in the first two rounds of that postseason.
The Celtics nearly upset Cleveland in the East finals that year (2018), James’ final season in Cleveland. They held a 3-2 lead in the series but lost the final two games, including Game 7 at home. James averaged 40.5 points, 13.0 rebounds, and 9.0 assists in those last two games, both Cavs wins, to get Cleveland to the Finals.
‘Rip His Head Off’
Thus, Brown says, he approaches any matchup against James with a due amount of respect for James’ ability and resume. But that does not mean Brown will shy away from a chance to dunk on the guy, he said.
“If you say Kobe, MJ or LeBron for the best players of all time, I am not going to argue with you,” Brown said. “He is definitely in that caliber and that’s where every player who plays this game wants to be at. So any time I get to compete against him … to me, it’s like an honor, to be honest, to be able to play and compete and give my all. I don’t look at it as, when I am playing against him as that—I am trying to rip his head off.”