The collective internet tilted its head a few degrees to the left last week when MultiVersus announced (opens in new tab) that the next brawler joining a roster that includes Iron Giant, Batman, and Arya Stark would be four-time NBA champion LeBron James. On top of the weirdness of an actual human being duking it out with DC heroes, players wondered how LeBron’s b-ball skillset could possibly translate into a fighting game.
It turns out: mostly how you’d expect—except for one move that I don’t think anyone anticipated, inspired by a Twitter meme.
LeBron, featured in-game with his Space Jam 2 jersey, has a fun moveset with his basketball. He can bonk players in the face with the ball, pass it to teammates, dunk the ball to create a small earthquake, and spin it on his finger to smush enemies above him. Where things start to get weird is when he loses his basketball.
Until he can summon a new ball, LeBron has to fight with his hands. When you press the attack button, LeBron shoulder checks enemies with an intentional foul. If you hold the attack button and then let it go, LeBron flashes back to the night of May 31, 2018 (opens in new tab). It was Game 1 of the NBA Finals, the score was tied, and teammate JR Smith had just made a mistake that would cost LeBron the win. LeBron’s immediate reaction to Smith’s blunder was as unmistakable as it was unforgettable: a look of utter disbelief with outstretched arms and hands gesturing in the direction that Smith should have dribbled the ball.
In MultiVersus, LeBron recreates the meme in his main unarmed attack, harnessing his trauma into a shove that deals exactly 15 damage:
I wasn’t entirely sure the attack was in fact a reference to the meme when I first saw it (after all, LeBron maintains a grin throughout the attack, not bewilderment), but upon closer inspection the arms, hands, and suggestive speech cloud of censored expletives convinced me. It’s not hard to believe that MultiVersus would look to the internet for inspiration, either. Shaggy, the game’s flagship fighter, has a moveset centered around the Ultra Instinct Shaggy (opens in new tab) meme that caught on a few years ago.
LeBron’s meme attack arguably isn’t even the weirdest, deepest cut move he has. When you don’t have a ball, his upward attack becomes a flawless recreation of the LeBron James chalk toss (opens in new tab) (a thing I am only hearing about now).
Developer Player First Games really did its homework when designing LeBron, which shouldn’t come as a surprise given how lovingly crafted (opens in new tab) all of its other characters are. LeBron’s successful MultiVersus debut officially has me excited for the arrival of Rick and Morty, who are slated to release alongside Season 1 in August.