It's 2012, and James is asked after a game to name the most memorable dunks in his career. Listing them quickly off the top of his head -- his slam on poor Damon Jones, or when he leaped over the top of John Lucas III -- is not all that impressive. The Rolling Stones will never forget the words and chords to "Gimme Shelter." Most players remember their greatest hits. What's remarkable is everything else: His ability, that day, to recall who was guarding the player who threw him an alley-oop pass from across the floor (James' favorite alley-oop came on a pass from Daniel Gibson over the arms of Antonio Daniels, he says). Or how an opponent might have gotten away with a hand-check foul on the play before a dunk four years earlier (these often involve Kevin Garnett).
It's when he remembers other stuff, like stuff he shouldn't even know, where you're like, "What?!?"" -- Chris Bosh
"Sometimes when we come into our morning meetings on game days NBA TV will be on and there will be some classic game on," Heat guard Mario Chalmers says. "LeBron will take one look at it and know what game it is. He'll be like, 'Oh, that's Game 2 of the '97 Finals,' before they even put it on the screen."
Consider: After the University of Connecticut won the national championship in April, James made a point to compliment Huskies coach and former teammate Kevin Ollie on the accomplishment. "He still looks the same in a suit on the sideline coaching for the Huskies as he did for us wearing No. 12," James said.
Ollie played with James for one season: his rookie year in 2003-04 in Cleveland. He played for 13 teams in his career and wore seven different numbers. And yes, a review of the historical record shows, Ollie did indeed wear No. 12 for the Cavs.
"Look, we're all professional basketball players, so when LeBron remembers something from a basketball game, even if it's from a few years ago, it doesn't exactly blow me away," Bosh says. "But it's when he remembers other stuff, like stuff he shouldn't even know, where you're like, 'What?!' We'll be watching a football game and he'll be like, 'Yeah, that cornerback was taken in the fourth round of the 2008 draft from Central Florida,' or something. And I'll be like, 'How do you know that?' And he'll be like, 'I can't help it.'"
So what does it mean? What it seems to suggest -- at least the part of it that James will discuss -- is that if you give up the baseline to James on a drive in November 2011 and he's playing against you in March 2013, the Heat small forward will remember it. It means that if you tried to change your pick-and-roll coverage in the middle of the fourth quarter of the 2008 playoffs, he'll be ready for you to try it again in 2014, even if you're coaching a different team. It also means that if you had a good game the last time you played against Milwaukee because James got you a few good looks in the first quarter, the next time you play the Bucks you can count on James looking for you early in the game. Because, you know, the memory never forgets.