The Signal

A LE­GACY OF HIS OWN Like Mike, LeBron carves out spe­cial place in NBA lore

Michael Singer

- @msinger USA TO­DAY Sports

The Golden State War­riors can wait.

That’s how LeBron James saw it.

The Cleve­land Cava­liers were less than two hours re­moved from clinch­ing their third Eastern Conference crown in a row and James’ sev­enth con­sec­u­tive trip to the NBA Fi­nals.

An un­prece­dented Fi­nals tril­ogy was fi­nally set, with Game 1 sched­uled for Thurs­day in Oak­land, but James had no in­ter­est or en­ergy to en­gage the topic.

“It’s too stress­ful, and I’m not stressed right now. They’ve been the best team in our league for the last three years, and then they added an MVP (Kevin Du­rant),” he said of the War­riors. “That’s all I can give you right now.”

Too much had hap­pened in the Cavs’ 135-102 Game 5 vic­tory against the Bos­ton Celtics. There was al­most too much his­tor­i­cal con­text to dis­sect, and so James did what his in­stincts told him to do. He passed.

James had over­taken Michael Jor­dan as the NBA’s all-time lead­ing play­off scorer on a three­p­ointer late in the third quar­ter. He fin­ished with 35 points and had the record to him­self at 5,995. Jor­dan was in his rearview mir­ror and still James de­flected the at­ten­tion like a kick-out to an open shooter in the cor­ner.

“I think the first thing for me was see­ing the ex­cite­ment on Kyle’s and Deron’s face,” James said of Kyle Korver and Deron Wil­liams. “You’ve got one guy with 12 years, first Fi­nals ap­pear­ance, and an­other guy 14. So that’s the first thing I picked.”

James, who ear­lier Thurs­day sug­gested com­par­isons were only for “bar­ber­shops,” tried to side­step the Jor­dan topic. But he fi­nally con­ceded in a nod to the sig­nif­i­cance of the mile­stone.

“I wear the num­ber (23) be­cause of Mike,” James said. “I think I fell in love with the game be­cause of Mike. When you’re grow­ing up and you’re see­ing Michael Jor­dan, it’s al­most like a God. So I didn’t even be­lieve I could be Mike. I started to fo­cus on my­self, on other play­ers and other peo­ple around my neigh­bor­hood be­cause I never thought that you could get to a point where Mike was.”

James, with three ti­tles, is still chas­ing Jor­dan’s six. He’s a few thou­sand points be­hind Jor­dan’s reg­u­lar-sea­son to­tal, too. But, as James made clear, num­bers won’t de­fine how he com­pares him­self to Jor­dan.

“It has noth­ing to do with pass­ing him in rings, pass­ing him in points, pass­ing him in MVPs. (Chas­ing his ghost) is just my per­sonal goal to keep me mo­ti­vated,” James said. “That’s all, you guys are go­ing to have the con­ver­sa­tions about who’s the great­est of all time, things of that na­ture. It doesn’t mat­ter to me.”

Though the play­off scor­ing record is now his, James also is chas­ing Magic Johnson and John Stock­ton for most all-time post­sea­son as­sists. He’s third with 1,439.

All of this is to say that al­though James con­ceded shoot­ing fade­aways as a kid like Mike, and wear­ing wrist­bands and leg sleeves and red shoes and short shorts — “so you could see my un­der­shorts un­der­neath” — like Mike, he still has his own le­gacy.

“How can I get the youth to feel like pass­ing the ball is OK, mak­ing the ex­tra pass is OK?” James said. “Draw­ing two de­fend­ers and no mat­ter if you win or lose, if you make the right play, it’s OK. If some kid or a group of kids from the West Coast or the East Coast or the Mid­west or the South and ev­ery­thing in be­tween, all around the world can look at me and say, ‘Well, I made the ex­tra pass be­cause LeBron made the ex­tra pass,’ or, ‘I got a chase­down block and I didn’t give up on the play be­cause LeBron didn’t give up,’ that would mean the world to me.”

 ?? ELISE AMENDOLA, AP ?? LeBron James (23) scored a game-high 35 points Thurs­day as the Cava­liers ousted the Celtics.
ELISE AMENDOLA, AP LeBron James (23) scored a game-high 35 points Thurs­day as the Cava­liers ousted the Celtics.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA