King James’ roy­alty is more ob­vi­ous than ever

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - PAGE 2 BITS - BY TOM WITHERS

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?”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE PHOTO

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.

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