By Frank Pingue
TORONTO (Reuters) – The remarkable workload that LeBron James has endured over the last seven seasons has been unlike any other in NBA history and the greatest player on the planet remains as hungry as ever to continue winning titles.
James, who entered the league out of high school in 2003, has long since secured his status as a surefire Hall of Famer but the Cleveland Cavaliers forward still shifts into a higher gear come playoff time.
“It’s the best part of the year. This is, they say, where legends are made,” James, a three-time NBA champion, said on Friday in Toronto where his Cavs beat the Raptors 115-94 for a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semi-final.
“I am just trying to put myself in a position where I can be, I guess, remembered when I am done playing.”
James had a team-high 35 points, leaving him 176 points shy of surpassing Michael Jordan as the all-time playoff scoring leader, as Cleveland improved to 7-0 in the 2017 postseason.
With the victory, the 32-year-old James also moved five wins away from reaching his seventh straight NBA Finals dating back to his time with the Miami Heat from 2010-2014.
His current streak of NBA Finals appearances is already a total unmatched since the Boston Celtics dynasty of the 1960s.
Those Celtics, however, did not have to log the same mileage as James since the bulk of their reign came during a period when the NBA had fewer than 10 teams, meaning fewer playoff rounds.
While a dominant James has made Cleveland’s run in the playoffs look easy, he credits past postseason failures for preparing him.
James reached his first NBA Finals in 2007 as a 22-year-old with the Cavs and after being swept by a veteran San Antonio Spurs team declared that he had to be “10 times better.”
He eventually left for Miami, saying he needed to learn how to win, and along with a cast of All-Stars won two NBA titles in four seasons before returning to Cleveland.
“At 22 I wasn’t mentally ready for this. You dream about it, you want it but you don’t have the experience to actually know,” said James, whose Cavaliers can wrap up the series on Sunday in Toronto.
“Mentally I had never been a part of it so I didn’t know exactly how much commitment and how much sacrifice that you got to make not only for yourself but for your team.
“But without that experience I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
(Editing by Larry Fine)