No stranger to comebacks throughout his NBA career, Cleveland Cavaliers small forward LeBron James knows what it takes to overcome deficits, both in a game and in a series.
And when James, the architect of the Cavaliers’ comeback from a 3-1 deficit against the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals last June, saw the New England Patriots score 31 straight points to beat the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI at NRG Stadium Sunday night, he showed “mutual respect” to quarterback Tom Brady.
“When you share some qualities and some common things, respect just automatically kicks in,” James said at shootaround Monday morning. “I’m happy for him, and it was great to watch.”
Although the Patriots were down by three scores late in the second half, Brady never wavered when the game was on the line.
With the Patriots trailing by 19 points heading into the fourth quarter, Brady completed 16 of his 21 throws for 196 yards and one touchdown in the final 15 minutes of regulation. In the extra session, Brady completed five of his six throws for 50 yards.
In leading the largest comeback in NFL postseason history, Brady became the first quarterback ever to win five Super Bowl titles.
“I just see greatness in Brady, and he’s very calm,” James said. “He’s very calm, no matter the situation. No matter the situation, no matter what was going on throughout the game, he was just calm, worrying about what the next play was, worrying about making the next completion, just keeping his guys mentally focused on the job at hand, and you’ve got to have that.
“You’ve got to have a sense of calm. When everything else, everybody else is erratic, you’ve got to have a sense of calmness about you as a leader because your troops see that, and when they see that, they feel good about themselves.”
Making his seventh Super Bowl appearance, Brady completed 43 of his 62 attempts for 466 yards with two touchdowns and an interception, which the Falcons returned 82 yards for a touchdown.
While watching the Super Bowl with his teammates, James felt that despite the deficit, the game was going the Patriots’ way in the second half, and ultimately, it was the postseason experience Brady that paid off in the end.
“The game ain’t over till it’s over,” James said. “You’ve got to play the game, and as a fan watching the game, you see the ups and downs, but you saw the momentum begin to change a little bit once they got that first score, so you never count him out.
“The best teacher in life is experience. I’ve experienced it. I’ve won; I’ve lost, but at the end of the day, I put myself in a position where when the stakes are high, I can just calm my mind and know what needs to be done.”