As the dust of battle settled, LeBron “King” James and his Cleveland Cavaliers emerged victorious against the best team in the Eastern Conference. The Atlanta Hawks were coming off a banner season buttressed by their first 60-win season and a winning culture. In the end, however, the Hawks were a no-show in the series and got their wings clipped, almost single-handedly, by the best player on the planet.
The Cavs are now the Eastern Conference champs—only the second time they achieved this in franchise history—and the last time they were this close to an NBA title, it was a younger James that brought them there. It is only fitting, perhaps a little poetic, that James is leading his hometown team once again to the cusp of greatness. The Cavs have never won a title and this may be their best chance to end one of the longest droughts in professional sports.
The “King” that led the Cavs to the 2015 NBA Finals is a different, more complete player, both mentally and physically, from the one that spearheaded the team’s 2007 NBA Finals appearance where they were swept by the clearly superior San Antonio Spurs. The King James of old could not carry the weight of his talent and eventually left the Cavs in 2010 to join the Miami Heat. With the Heat, he won two titles in four Finals appearances. This marks his 5th straight Finals appearance and is definitely in good company. Only a handful of NBA players have done this. These include Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, etc.
The LeBron that we know now takes no prisoners and have catapulted a team of odd pieces to the finals. Against the Atlanta Hawks, the King averaged a whopping 30 points, 11 rebounds and nearly 10 assists willing his team to victory. This was a team hobbled with a playoff-ending injury to Kevin Love and an oft-injured Kyrie Irving who was a non-factor in the series. In effect, the King was carrying the load of two superstars.
What is more impressive is that three of Cleveland’s rotation players namely J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert and Timofey Mozgov just joined the Cavs in mid-season. The three are definitely good players but they have blossomed playing with James. James ability to draw double and triple teams, make plays and uncanny passing ability have allowed his teammates to play in rhythm. Like the other greats, the 4-time MVP James brings out the best in his teammates.
The King is now on a collision course with reigning league MVP Steph Curry whose team the Golden State Warriors are playing in their first NBA Finals in 40 years. This series will definitely be exciting and unpredictable as both stars affect the game in so many different ways. This is an epic clash between the entrenched superstar and the league’s fast-rising star who is aiming to usurp and take the King’s throne.
At age 30, James is not yet ready to give up his crown. If he finally wins this one for the Cavaliers, he will take one more step towards greatness, his legacy complete. Make no mistake, the King is going all out on this one.