After proclaiming himself the “Best Shooter in the Universe,” the D.J. had to wait his turn to prove that point before the basketball world – four quarters and 4:54 of the first overtime.
Just before Damon’s dagger, Washington’s Gilbert Arenas missed two free throws to keep the Cavaliers within striking distance. After a Cavaliers timeout, Jones joined the five Cavs on the court with just 4.8 to play and the Wine and Gold trailing, 113-112.
James in-bounded the ball to Larry Hughes, who quickly swung it over to an awaiting Jones, planted on the left baseline. With Antawn Jamison in his face, Jones let the 17-footer fly and it splashed home – clinching the First Round series over the Wizards and allowing Cleveland to advance to the Second Round for the first time in a dozen years.
While the Cavaliers await Game 3 of their Semifinal series with Boston, cavs.com caught up with the great Damon Jones four years after the shot heard round the Wine and Gold world …
What are you up to these days?
Damon Jones: Just working out. Trying to get my body in the best possible condition to make a comeback to the NBA. Recently, I had a short stint playing in Italy.
How does it feel to be a part of Cavaliers folklore?
D.J.: Well, I’m very honored and very humbled by the accomplishment. I’m happy that it was a situation that happened in Cleveland, because the organization had trust in me to give me the longest contract I’ve had in my career up to that point. They felt comfortable bringing me in on a long-term deal, so I was glad that I was able to do whatever I could to help the team be successful.
They put their trust in me and I was proud to be able to do something special.
How often do you go back and watch it?
D.J.: You know what, I haven’t recently.
People are always bringing it up. I’ve probably watched it four of five times since it happened. But it’s not something I dwell on because I think there are more big shots to be made and more games to be won.
So hopefully, with what I’m doing right now, I can get another opportunity in the NBA and, you know, go forward.
Talk about that night leading up to the shot – coming in cold off the bench in overtime …
D.J.: It was a tough situation because the opportunities to play in that series were very scarce for me. But one thing that the guys always said throughout the course of the game and series was that if we’re going to accomplish something special, everyone’s going to have to stay ready.
The game itself was an ugly game. We would go on runs, they would go on runs. It was like a heavyweight fight and both sides were starting to get fatigued. So, towards the end, it was a situation where they started double-teaming LeBron a lot. And whenever teams did that, we tried to put as many good shooters on the floor as possible.
So that night, I guess Mike Brown had a premonition about me – after not playing in four quarters and in the overtime, saying: ‘Hey listen, let’s throw this guy out here and see if he can help us out.’
So, the guys through the four quarters and overtime kept telling me: ‘Man, just be ready. We might need you. Just keep your mind in the game.’ And it was just a situation where God blessed me with opportunity to step up big and fortunately for me, I was able to make the shot and we were able to advance.
Was the play designed for you?
D.J.: No, the play was designed to get LeBron the ball and get him some space and surround him with shooters. So we just wanted to give him some space to operate, but he’s very unselfish and he makes plays for others so, you know, I was just able to knock down a big shot.
Did it feel good when it left your hand?
D.J.: Man, to be honest with you, I don’t know what the feeling was! I was kind of in shock that I even got the ball.
I didn’t know for sure if they would double-team, but I was ready if they did. But when LeBron got the ball out of the double-team and he found Larry, and Larry swung the ball to me, I was ready to lock, load and fire.
It felt good, but sometimes shots feel good and they don’t go in. So I was blessed for that shot to go in.
There’s a huge photo in The Q’s office of the aftermath of the shot, a huge pileup that you’re at the bottom of. What was that like?
D.J.: You know what? It was an exciting time, but that was the worst part about making the shot!
For like 10 to 15 seconds, I couldn’t breathe at all. I kept telling the guys, ‘Get up! Get up!’ LeBron was almost crushing my lungs and I couldn’t breathe. But it was an exciting time and one of the great moments I’ve had in my career so far.
Where does it rank in terms of your career highlights?
D.J.: I’d have to say top two. I think put it one or two. Also in the argument was the opportunity to play in the Finals. My aspirations in this game have always been to be a winner, and that was the ultimate stage before being crowned winner of it all.
So to be in that position, to get to the Finals was a dream come true and a memory that I hold dear to my heart.
Have you been following the Cavaliers in this year’s postseason?
D.J.: I’ve been watching the games. Playoff series are up and down. Sometimes you’re up, sometimes you’re down. But I think you just have to stick together as a unit and continue to grind it out. No one said that winning it all would be easy.
I love the city of Cleveland and I’m still rooting on the couch every night when I’m watching the game. I’m still coaching from the couch because I know the guys; I know the tendencies.
When the Cavaliers win, I’m so excited. When they lose, I don’t have a good day because I know the heart and soul of that team, and I know how much work not only the players put in, but the coaching staff as well. And I think when you put in that amount of work and effort and you have that type of camaraderie, good things should happen to you.
So when they stumble and have a loss, it’s heartfelt by me. And I’m not even on the team.