LeBron James marches toward NBA immortality


Through the years, LeBron James‘ coaches — and his opponents — have been asked the same questions over and over.

How would you rank LeBron among the best basketball players of all time? Is LeBron James the greatest athlete you’ve ever seen?

Reporters ask these questions largely because they know the answer. LeBron ranks near the top, and is the best player in the game right now. He may someday may be the greatest to have ever played.

Warriors head coach Steve Kerr joked when asked if there is a better athlete in the world:

“Maybe American Pharoah.”

Cleveland Head Coach David Blatt, careful to disrespect the basketball greats whose careers can be looked at from start to finish, added his own quip:

“Where would I rank him? I don’t know. I’ll put it this way, I’d put my money on him in the decathlon.”

There’s no question that James is great, and this championship push is proof once again that he is rising to new levels, even when most thought he had already peaked.

The Cavaliers are playing without their All-Star power forward, Kevin Love, and All-Star point-guard Kyrie Irving. James has a staggering player usage percentage of 44 percent. That means nearly half the time, the Cavaliers offense runs through James in some way or another.

For comparison, Stephen Curry is around 30 percent, followed by Klay Thompson at 25 percent.

Even with all the injuries, adversity, and nearly everyone writing off the Cavaliers before the Finals started, James said he is, and has been, ready to whatever it takes to win:

“I’ve never played where two All‑Stars were out.  So it’s a different challenge for myself, and it’s outside the box, but it’s not too far.  It’s not far for me to go grab.”

It’s not too far. Nothing seems out of reach to James.

It’s that sheer will and determination that separates James from other players, but those are qualities that James himself told SFBay are hard to quantify:

“It’s really hard to describe … For me, I just try to put it all on the line to a point where win, lose or draw, you’re satisfied with the outcome.”

The Warriors, who dominated the regular season and sailed through the postseason on their way to the Finals, were expected to have the quickness, depth and versatility to walk all over James and the Cavs.

But James has shown he can’t, and won’t, be stopped. Kerr said he expected everything he has seen, he expected for James to dictate the tempo, to slow the game down, to wind down the clock with isolation basketball. And even though Kerr and the Warriors expected it, they still have no answer for it.

James has two double-doubles and a triple-double in the three Finals games played in 2015, and has essentially willed the Cavaliers to a 2-1 lead.

Reporters are still asking the same questions to his coach, and continue to ask James what his motivations are for winning. Though James alluded to a secret motivation this year, his attitude and answers have been the same through five-consecutive Finals appearances.

In 2013 before Game 1 of the NBA Finals, James was why he plays basketball, and what it would mean to win:

“I play the game because I love it and I have fun playing it, and I love the competitive side of it…That’s what I play the game for, is to win championships.  I understand that it’s a long process, it’s the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do playing basketball. That’s what I’m here for.  I’m here to win championships.”

He very well may do it again.

Follow @SFBay and @NBASarah on Twitter and at SFBay.ca for full coverage of the Golden State Warriors.

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