This afternoon, CJ McCollum shot the Portland Trail Blazers into their first trip to the Western Conference Finals in 19 years.
McCollum scored 37 points, including several game-sealing jumpers, to lead the Blazers' 100-96 victory over the Denver Nuggets. It was another tremendous moment in a giddy playoff run for what has often felt like a snakebit franchise.
It was the biggest game of McCollum's career. How did he prepare? He recorded a podcast about it.
So when the Blazers won Game 6 of the Denver series on Thursday, McCollum went back into the studio to record a special Game 7 episode. He stopped short of guaranteeing victory, but he sounded very, very confident.
"We've been doubted, a lot of things haven't gone our way," McCollum said. "We've had injuries, we've had the media doubt us, we've had the media doubt our backcourt. And now we're one game away from going to the conference finals. If you would have told me that we would have to go win a game on the road to go conference final before the season started, I would have told you I like our chances."
He backed that up on the court. When Damian Lillard struggled to find his shooting touch in Denver on Sunday, McCollum carried the burden, hitting a variety of circus shots and the crucial fourth-quarter dagger. (He also had an astonishing chase-down block of Jamal Murray, swatting away what looked like an easy fast-break lay-up.)
By essentially pre-taping a victory pod, McCollum brings full circle the story of his podcasting hubris—a saga that started last summer when he invited Golden State Warriors star Kevin Durant on the show, and told him the Blazers were not very far from challenging the champs. Durant laughed in his face.
Now the Blazers play the Warriors starting Tuesday in the Western Conference Finals. It's unclear if Durant—who hurt his leg—will play but, either way, it's the Podcast Series. Snakes in the grass, boy, I tell ya.
The podcast feud with Durant was one of McCollum's two public spats last summer, as the Blazers reeled from an embarrassing first-round sweep. The other? A Twitter dust-up with Jennifer Williams, a Warriors fan who told him she wouldn't take him seriously until he won a playoff series.
He has succeeded—twice over—and he and Williams have buried the hatchet. In fact, she was cheering for him Sunday.