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#RememberWhensday: LeBron James puts Derrick Rose in the torture chamber

And the budding Bulls dynasty never came to bloom

Very few variables were within LeBron James’ control during the 2010-11 season, his first with the Miami Heat. Not how the fans treated him. Not how the media covered him. Not even how fellow players around the league viewed him. Backlash from “The Decision” and the Heat’s probate the summer before followed “The Big Three” like a black cloud and, at times, a badge of honor.

One well within King James’ control, however, was the 2011 Eastern Conference finals. Derrick Rose was the feel-good story of the league and a point guard with otherworldly athleticism. Ask Goran Dragic. Rose captured the 2011 MVP, an award James won the previous two seasons, after leading the Chicago Bulls to the best record in the Eastern Conference.

The perceived snub didn’t sit well with ‘Bron, who finished third in MVP voting that season. So he took matters into his own hands.

Though the season ended in heartbreak a month later with a Finals loss to the Dallas Mavericks — James’ self-admitted career nadir — the Heat dispatched the Bulls in five games. James led the Heat in minutes played, points, rebounds, assists and steals. But the straitjacket he slung on Rose during fourth quarters and in overtimes was James’ series magnum opus. Rose scored 117 points in the five-game set, but did so on 120 field goal attempts.

James put the then-reigning MVP in a torture chamber, destroying Chicago’s late-game offense in the process.

“The MVP has a lot of energy,” James said during the series. The Chicago Tribune called this a sarcastic comment, citing ‘Bron’s ‘refusal’ to say the Chicago superstar’s name.

Rose shot 6.3 percent with James guarding him, including going 1-15 in Games 4 and 5. And if James needed a “middle finger to MVP voters” moment, he and Dwyane Wade’s 19-4 fourth quarter barrage in Game 5 was when that bird flew.

James’ three-pointer with a minute left tied the game. James’ step-back jumper with 29 seconds left gave Miami the lead. And James’ block on Rose as the time expired sealed the series and, ultimately, Chicago’s championship window which was never the same following Rose’s knee injury the next season.

A half decade later, James is still the Eastern Conference crypt-keeper. Should the Cavs advance past the Raptors, a familiar scenario looms in what would be his sixth consecutive Finals. Another all-world point guard, reigning MVP — the only unanimous one in NBA history — and the game’s greatest shooter ever could await in a rematch that has become his obsession.

Pressure is the longstanding constant in LeBron’s career. Yet, much more than the 2011 showdown against Derrick Rose, James’ throne as the league’s top dog is under heavy fire.

The only way to change perception is to change perception. James is quite used to that.

Liner Notes

#RememberWhensday is The Undefeated’s weekly version of #TBT where we revisit historic sports moments.

Justin Tinsley is a culture and sports writer for The Undefeated. He firmly believes “Cash Money Records takin’ ova for da ’99 and da 2000” is the single-most impactful statement of his generation.