For Lakers star LeBron James, it was an entertaining challenge for parts of last season. At various points in the game, James would pull up from more than 30 feet away and launch an uncontested 3-pointer—known as a “logo 3” because he would often be on or in line with the midcourt logo when he shot it. What was especially impressive was that James made a fair number of them.
But James never really took one of the logo 3s in a critical situation. Last night, though, we did see James do it: With 20 seconds to play (and eight seconds on the shot clock) in the game and the Lakers leading the Bulls by one point at the Staples Center, James pulled up for a 31-foot 3-pointer. It clanged off the front of the rim.
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Here’s a look at the shot:
The Bulls’ Zach Lavine missed an 18-foot jumper that would have given the Bulls the lead with four seconds to play. The Lakers held on for the win, but frequent James critic Skip Bayless pounced on James’ decision, pointing out that James was, “running from the late-game free-throw line.”
LeBron James Flashed ‘Logo 3’ Ability Last Season
Last season, according to stats from Basketball-Reference.com, the average distance of James’ shots was 12.9 feet, which is the longest average distance from which he has shot since 2008-09. Back then, James averaged 13.4 feet in his sixth season and was really focusing on stretching out his shot range.
This season, his average shot comes from 13.2 feet, third-highest distance in his 18-year career.
Lately, though, James has been trying some Stephen Curry-esque attempts, and last year, he had some notable successes, including in back-to-back games in March.
First, there was this second-quarter 34-footer in New Orleans, an effort to get a two-for-one before the end of the half:
Two days later, there was this 36-footer at home against the Sixers, a shot taken with a comfortable, 16-point lead:
Frank Vogel was asked at that time how he felt about the pull-up shots by James from deep. They are certainly not conventional, high-percentage shots, but far be it from Vogel to question James’ decision-making.
“When it goes in, it’s a good one,” Vogel said, according to the Los Angeles Times. “And if it doesn’t go in, it’s a bad one. It’s easy coaching here.”
LeBron James Has Struggled in Late-Game Free-Throw Situations
Vogel was not asked, however, about his thoughts on James’ decision to launch the deep 3 against the Bulls with the game on the line. And Bayless does have a point bout James and the free-throw line—in the last two minutes of games that have been within five points (James has been in three of them), James has taken just one free throw, which he missed.
According to data at NBA.com/Stats, Anthony Davis has taken three, and Dennis Schroder has taken two. It’s a small sample size, of course, but he has struggled at the line in close games. He was only 11-for-17 from the free-throw line in those situations last year and in his last four seasons, he was 49-for-82, which is 59.8%.
During that same span, James shot 70.1% overall from the free-throw line.
Oddly enough, James explained back in March that he takes the deep 3s because he wants to eliminate weaknesses—and late-game free throws remain more of a weakness than his perimeter shooting.
“Obviously, the game is played so much at the three-point line and beyond,” James said. “I just think for me personally, I want to continue to have a growth mindset on however the game is changing, being able to change my game and also still be true to who I am at the same time. Just trying not to have any weaknesses.”