When the Los Angeles Lakers needed a bucket late against the Boston Celtics on Sunday, LeBron James, in typical fashion, went to one of his patented moves. He backed down Jaylen Brown some 10 feet from the basket, gave a shoulder fake, and hit a fadeaway jumper that he terrorized the Eastern Conference with for years.
LeBron James fades away to put LAL back in front!@celtics 110@Lakers 111— NBA (@NBA) February 23, 2020
12.3 left on ABC pic.twitter.com/8V2EnlLsIE
In his post-game comments, James had this to say about that play:
“I had been setting him up all night with the back down, to the drop step, to the baseline, so I figured he would sit on it thinking I would try it again. So, went to my back down, gave a little ‘Dream Shake’ to the baseline and was able to open up middle and get my fadeaway.”
Before you shudder at the idea that he called that baseline fake — well, not so much of a fake as it was a nudge; an implication, if you will; he implied with his body that he would possibly go baseline — a “Dream Shake,” I would like to point out how cool it was that he would reference a legend like Hakeem Olajuwon in that moment. This was the first Lakers-Celtics matchup since the tragic passing of Kobe Bryant. Many greats from both franchises were in attendance, including the ultimate Celtic, Bill Russell, donning a No. 24 Kobe Bryant Lakers jersey.
So in that moment, when it seemed to impossible to acknowledge anyone outside of the cult of that rivalry and those franchises, he had to give praise to the greatest to put his back to the basket. And while we might not agree with his choice to call that little shoulder fake a “Dream Shake,” it’s always a super cool reminder that any kind of fake made with one’s back towards the basket is synonymous with the Houston Rockets legend.
OK, credit has been given, but now let’s dissect this supposed “Dream Shake.”
Of course, your first point of reference is the video above, and here is a slow-motion visual of the move.
.@KingJames talks us step-by-step through his TOUGH fadeaway against the Celtics. pic.twitter.com/DcpsutlqEu— ESPN (@espn) February 24, 2020
James starts off with his back towards the basket, so that always a good start. In his comments, he mentions that he already established a drop step, which is a key element, because a Dream Shake isn’t effective if there is not threat of going to one’s opposite side, so another good good thing.
Now, here’s where things get a little iffy. For one, there is no clear presence of a fake. James gives a little shoulder move, but it’s more of him faking a backdown instead of actually faking that he’s going to his left — which, at this point it doesn’t even matter because Brown is overcompensating in fear of getting blown past to his left. Then, there’s no show of the ball. LeBron gives a slight move with his left shoulder, clearly grabs the ball in a shooting motion, plants his non-pivot foot far behind him, and uses that big right shoulder to create space and has an open shot with the fadeaway.
Final Verdict: C
Did he back down his opponent and hit an extremely tough fadeaway? Yes. But he didn’t give a fake or any other move that said something other than the fact that he was going to hit that patented fadeaway. But again, that doesn’t matter when the constant threat of being blown past is looming over the defender. Also, he hit a tough, hard-worked, signature move of his own. Not all back-to-the-basket moves can be Dream Shakes; they have to look something like this:
Happy #713Day!— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) July 13, 2019
Here’s Hakeem’s ULTIMATE "Dream Shake" Mixtape!
It just goes to you show how much work and technique went into perfecting the Dream Shake for Hakeem — you try making half a dozen moves and nailing a shot without ever seeing the basket — and that today’s living legends will always respect that.