The Los Angeles Lakers began the Western Conference Finals series against the Denver Nuggets on Friday night, securing a 126-114 victory. NASCAR chose to celebrate King James' return to the postseason by posting a throwback video from the site of Saturday's playoff race. Racing's governing body showed him trying to make a basket on a banked turn at the fastest short track in motorsports.
The video showed a 20-year-old James dressed in a Powerade shirt and standing on the Bristol track. This was early in his career after landing with the Cleveland Cavaliers as the first overall pick in the 2003 NBA Draft. In order to reach the basket, James had to lean forward and dribble up the 36-degree turn. Once he reached the top of the track, James had to stop and then prepare to shoot. He ultimately completed a slow-motion layup while a friend helped keep him from falling back.
Career highlights for @KingJames as he heads into the Western Conference Finals tonight:September 18, 2020
"Ah, man, this is a very bigger court than I've ever played on," James said after making the shot. He fired up the crowd with the moment and then spent some time with the drivers. He signed some autographs and then watched the Nextel Cup Series Sharpie 500. This race featured Matt Kenseth securing the pole position and then going on to win the race. Jeff Burton, Greg Biffle, Ricky Rudd and Rusty Wallace rounded out the top-five.
The timing of James' appearance in the Western Conference Finals fits perfectly with the first cutoff race of the NASCAR playoffs. The drivers are heading to Bristol Motor Speedway for a Saturday night race that marks the end of the first round. 16 will enter the evening with hopes of remaining alive in the hunt but only 12 will move on to the next round.
Of the 16 drivers, Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski have all secured their spots in the round of 12. William Byron, Rookie of the Year Cole Custer, Matt DiBenedetto and Ryan Blaney are all sitting on the outside looking in, but any one of these drivers could move on with a win. This would put them ahead of Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch and Aric Almirola, who currently have the three remaining spots.
In order to move on in the playoffs, the drivers will have to fight for positioning over the course of 500 laps (266.5 miles). They will do so on the same track where James once made a basket at the start of a long and successful career.