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LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers almost broke the internet with his high-flying, powerful dunk in the face of 7-foot, 280-pound Jusuf Nurkic of the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday night at Moda Center.
Reaction to James’ dunk, coming in a 113-105 loss to the Blazers, who extended their winning streak to 11, went viral.
However, in challenging to onrushing freight train of the 6-8, 260-pound James at the rim, Nurkic earned great respect from his Portland teammates.
“We talk about it all the time,” Trail Blazer Ed Davis told The Oregonian. “You’ve got guys who are known dunkers. And the question is: When they come in the lane, what are you going to do? I respect Nurk for going after the block. A lot of guys are scared and get out of the way.”
Teammates fist-bumped Nurkic when he came back to the Portland bench, congratulating him for the courage he showed by accepting the challenge as opposed to simply getting out of the way of the charging James as he powered to the rack.
“When we came to the bench, everyone was dapping Nurk up just for being there at the rim,” Damian Lillard said. “(James) has done that to plenty of people. It would have been a completely different story had Nurk seen him coming and moved out of the way. We’ll take him getting dunked on and challenging at the rim over him moving out of the way any day. It happens.”
James’ Cleveland teammates on the bench went berserk after the facial, jumping from their seats and spilling onto the court in a burst of raw emotion. James admitted in his postgame talk with reporter the dunk on Nurkic is a highlight he won’t soon forget.
“I knew it was going to be a good one that’s going to be shown for a long time,” James said. “I was more excited to look over and see how excited (my teammates’) were. That one will last forever.”