It's the middle of February now, in a game against the Golden State Warriors, and James is walking the ball down the floor with the seconds running out. The Heat are down two points and he's dribbling the final nine seconds off the clock with ace defender Andre Iguodala guarding him. James fakes a drive, then steps back and to his left in time to fire in a game-winning 3-pointer over Iguodala's fingers with 0.1 seconds left.
In the jovial postgame locker room, it's pointed out to James by a reporter that almost exactly five years earlier, he'd won a game with a jumper at Oracle Arena at the buzzer from virtually the same exact spot at the same basket.
"Not really," James says in response. "That one was probably about six feet closer to the baseline and inside the 3-point arc. It was over Ronny Turiaf, I stepped back on him but I crossed him over first and got him on his heels. I'm sure of it. It was down the sideline a few feet. It was a side out-of-bounds play; this one we brought up."
Within moments, James is watching that very 2009 highlight on a cell phone while icing his aching feet. And indeed, there it is -- the crossover step-back on Turiaf from, oh, about six feet to the left of the shot he'd just hit over Iguodala. Right along the sideline inside the 3-point line. A side out-of-bounds play. Just like he said.
He is 6-foot-8 or so, and 260 pounds or so. He has striking athleticism even while in a crowd of some of the greatest athletes on the planet. He has a strong work ethic that manifests itself in expansive summer programs that are at the heart of the steady development of his game over the years. He is ambidextrous, playing right-handed but doing most other things in his life left-handed, a trait that has helped him become one of the great scorers in league history. He has an expansive interest in the history of the game, which he uses both as a teaching resource and to generate motivation in a time where he has very few true contemporaries.
There is all of that. But there is also one other quality, one that James himself has somehow managed to keep hidden for the past decade, despite our seemingly insatiable desire to uncover -- and wring dry -- most everything about the man: the memory. It is perhaps one of James' greatest gifts. And while those who watch James are typically impressed with how he uses his speed and skill to generate highlight plays, those who know James or spend a lot of time with him are more frequently blown away by the almost curious power of his mind.
The memory. It can inform him. It can engage him. It can turn on him. It can attack him. It can, he says, hinder him in ways that are far harder to treat than a sprained ankle. And learning to control it has been a fight as great as any other in his career.
"When I was a kid my coaches started to say to me that I remembered things that happened in games from a few tournaments back -- and that surprised them," James says. "I started to realize how important that could be years later, probably when I was in high school. And then, eventually, I realized that it can get me into trouble."