LeBron made good on his promise, just not quite the way he envisioned

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Updated: May 31, 2018
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LeBron James, in the summer of 2010, chose to announce in front of a nationally televised audience that he would sign with the Miami Heat and join forces with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. It was seven years into his career, and he was ringless with just one NBA Finals appearance at the time. It was a decision that sent shockwaves throughout the basketball community.

He repeatedly emphasized in the sit-down interview with Jim Gray how much he wanted to win, which played a monumental role in why he left the Cleveland Cavaliers and signed elsewhere. When he and Bosh were first introduced to the Miami fans, alongside Wade, LeBron went out on a limb and said, “Not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven,” when referring to how many championships he felt the star-studded group could attain.

Well, LeBron has appeared in each and every NBA Finals since that moment. He made four straight appearances with the Heat, winning two of them, and has led his hometown team to the championship for now a fourth-consecutive year since returning to Cleveland. Add it all up, and that’s eight straight trips to the Finals for the 33-year-old from St. Vincent–St. Mary High School in Akron, Ohio.

The last time he wasn’t competing for an NBA championship in June, the HBO hit series Game of Thrones (which is seven seasons in) had yet to debut, Shaquille O’Neal was still in the league, Migos had yet to release their first album, “Juug Season,” it was still popular to own a Blackberry (I know we all remember Blackberry Messenger, right?), and I was in college, entering my senior year at Virginia Commonwealth University.

It’s an incredible achievement to reach the sport’s biggest stage every season for nearly a decade. That’s not something we’ve witnessed too many times over the years. Michael Jordan got to the Finals six times, but there was a two-year gap between his two three-peats. He retired to start the 1993-94 season, then returned the following season in March of 1995 as his Chicago Bulls lost to the Orlando Magic in the second round of the playoffs.

Fans have been eager to crown LeBron as the “GOAT” after watching him will this Cavs roster back to the Finals. He has averaged 34.0 points, 9.2 rebounds and 8.8 assists during this year’s playoffs.

But it’s been a challenge along the way. Two of the series, against Indiana and Boston, required a winner-take-all Game 7. LeBron rose to the occasion, as he so frequently does, and sealed victories for his team. LeBron has been carrying the load for the Cavs — literally.

I’ve seen a few stories insinuating that reaching the Finals with this sub par supporting cast is the greatest accomplishment of his career. I wouldn’t go that far. This run has been exceptional, that’s without a doubt. But he still has to cap it off with another championship before that can be the case. And that’ll be a difficult task against the Golden State Warriors, who are making a fourth-straight Finals appearance themselves.

They, as well as the Cavs, faced a 3-2 deficit in the conference finals. Their opponent was the Houston Rockets, the top overall seed in the playoffs. But in Game 5 of that series, the Rockets lost their floor general, Chris Paul, to a hamstring injury, forcing him to miss Games 6 and 7. That put the onus on James Harden and the role players to deliver — and of course, that just wasn’t going to cut it against a team as talented as Golden State.

The Warriors took advantage, even though they were without Andre Iguodala for the final four games of the series themselves, and won two in a row with their backs against the wall.

Houston presented the biggest challenge to Golden State since Kevin Durant entered the fold. It was the first tight series the Warriors have been a part of since the Cavs defeated them in the NBA Finals in 2016.

But that LeBron-led team featured another superstar, Kyrie Irving. This time around, he won’t have a dynamic guard to help aid him in clutch moments. His second-best player on the court will likely be Kevin Love, who has worked his way back from a concussion and will play in Game 1. His third-best player in these playoffs has been 37-year-old Kyle Korver, who is one of the greatest shooters the game has seen, but doesn’t bring a whole lot more to the table at this point of his career.

So while LeBron continues to add to his historically great resume, which features three titles, three Finals MVPs, four NBA MVP awards, 14 All-Star appearances, three All-Star Game MVPs, 12 All-NBA first team and five All-Defensive first team selections, just reaching the Finals doesn’t put the cherry on top. He has to seal the deal and hold up the Larry O’Brien Trophy in order to conclude this season on the highest note.

LeBron is currently 3-5 when reaching the Finals. Only three players in league history have suffered more Finals losses, Jerry West (1-8), Elgin Baylor (0-7) and Larry Foust (0-5). LeBron is also one of the greatest players to ever step foot on a basketball court. That we know. Getting to the championship nine times in 15 seasons is flat out brilliance. But let’s not treat this as if he has nothing else to play for. LeBron is still chasing rings, chasing greatness.

Yes, Golden State is the overwhelming favorite. But when you’re considered the top player on the planet, then you always have a chance. I don’t think anyone wants to completely count out King James. Under any circumstances.

Josiah Turner

Josiah is the founder and editor-in-chief at Sideline Sports Report. He has written for ESPN.com and is currently a digital editor at the SEC Network. He has covered the Washington Redskins for FanSided, and he has also covered high school basketball for Rivals.com and the Mechanicsville Local newspaper. Josiah is from Chesapeake, Va., and a college graduate from Virginia Commonwealth University.

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