King James’ royalty is more obvious than ever
CLEVELAND — LeBron James one day will take his final bow, the brightest NBA spotlight moving on to someone else.
There will come a time when his legs lose some explosiveness and those vicious dunks will be rendered ordinary. Someday, his jump shot won’t fall as often, and that astonishing court vision, the key to his game, will become cloudy.
James will face the end of his career one day. Just not any time soon.
On the eve of his seventh straight NBA Finals appearance, and 10 years since he debuted on basketball’s grand stage, James’ reign continues: undisputed king of the court.
During a postseason in which he has led the champion Cleveland Cavaliers to a 12-1 record and chased down Michael Jordan as the No. 1 scorer in playoff history, James not only has positioned himself for a fourth title but has intensified the debate over whether he’s the greatest player in NBA history.
He isn’t slowing down while building his case.
James always has dismissed the Jordan comparisons, saying that kind of talk is “only great for barbershops” and that original gravity-defying No. 23 has been his motivational muse, not a target. But after the Cavs won their third straight conference title, punishing an overmatched Boston team in five games — he supplanted Jordan during the clincher — James discussed his place alongside someone who was “like a god” to him growing up.
“I did pretty much everything that M.J. did when I was a kid,” James said. “I shot fadeaways before I should have. I wore black and red shoes with white socks. I wore short shorts so you could see my undershorts underneath. I didn’t go bald like Mike, but I’m getting there. … But other than that, I did everything Mike did. I even wore a wristband on my forearm. I didn’t do the hoop earring, either. That was Mike.
“But I did everything Mike did, man.”
And he’s not done, not by a long shot.
James is on a mission, and it’s far from accomplished.
By having one of his finest statistical postseasons — 32.5 points per game, 8.0 rebounds, 7.0 assists, 57 percent shooting through 13 games — James is dismissing any argument about the league’s true MVP. Although he’ll finish behind Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Kawhi Leonard when the regular-season award is given out next month, James has reminded everyone over the past six weeks that he remains the measuring stick at age 32.
He’s raising the bar even higher, during a decade in which his actions — on and off the floor — have shaped the league.
“LeBron James has dominated, seriously dominated, this era of basketball. His domination has been about the equivalent to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s in his time,” Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas said. “He’s playing for his place in history, to be talked about as one of the best to ever play. The conversation will come down between he, Kareem and Michael Jordan. Then it’s just a matter of taste. Who do you want?”
Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James drives for a layup between Boston Celtics forward Jae Crowder and guard Avery Bradley during Game 5 of the NBA Eastern Conference finals on May 25 in Boston.