Lake Buena Vista, Florida (AFP) – He went to Miami and became a hero.
He returned to Cleveland and won another title.
He went to Los Angeles and now the Lakers are back on top of the basketball world.
LeBron James, love him or hate him, falls into his own category now. He has led three franchises to NBA titles, something no one has done before. His legacy was completed long before Sunday night, when the Los Angeles Lakers became the NBA champion for the 17th time by beating the Miami Heat and winning the title to crown a season like no other, in a bubble like no other.
But that legacy is shinier now.
Earlier in these qualifiers, James said: “I think, as Frank Sinatra said, I did it my way.”
This is not up for discussion.
He won four titles. He is the best player in the NBA Finals four times, and the second to win that number. He has done it all with the biggest goal in the NBA on the back, with every action and every word checked and criticized often.
James has become the epitome of an independent super athlete, which is something many try to be, but very few of them have a chance to quit. He does what he wants, whenever he wants, however he wants, and makes him work. Bill Russell will have more episodes forever and Michael Jordan will forever be the choice of many as the greatest player in the NBA. And that’s fine with James, who made his way himself.
“The basketball game will pass me by,” James said as the title loomed over the horizon. “There will be a new group of children, vets, and juniors throughout this game. So, I can’t worry about that as much as on the ground. How do I move, how do I walk, what I preach, what I’m talking about, how do I inspire the next generation is what interests me most.” .
He never forgot that he was once a child separated from Akron, Ohio. If he’s not yet a billionaire, he’s heading that way. He is on the Wheaties Fund now, saying his unveiling last week was “one of the best moments of my life”. He founded a school and continues to be involved in things there. He is actively trying to get more people, especially blacks, to vote than ever before.
Oh, if that wasn’t enough, he delivered a championship to a Lakers franchise that lasted 10 years without one and did it in a year they so desperately needed it, making them cry with tears of joy after all the tears of pain that followed the death of Kobe Bryant in a helicopter crash in January .
Denver coach Michael Malone said of James, “I think what LeBron is doing at his age is amazing.” “The minutes he plays, how effective he is on both ends of the Earth, his influence on both ends of the Earth, and his will to win is unbelievable.”
The 35-year-old finished this postseason with 580 points. No one his age has done this. He received 184 assists. No one his age has done this. If he’s slowing down, he’s not showing it; He had 32 points in his first playoff game in 14 years, surpassing that six times in this post-season race.
“He showed why he is a player, why he has a career and the legacy he’s building continuously,” said Jimmy Butler from Miami.
James is 4,148 points behind Karim Abdul-Jabbar for top scoring in the regular season, which means that he will have to play at least two more full seasons to reach this number. Sunday was his 260th play-off appearance, as Derek Fisher surpassed the all-time record. It was an All-NBA for the 16th time this season, a record. He started his 16th consecutive All-Star match this season, another record. More fans chose him as the best player of the season than Giannis Antitecounmo, who won the award.
Nothing was left to prove on the basketball court.
Then again, there’s nothing left to prove for a while now.
“I think the story will be told how it is supposed to be told and written how it is supposed to be written,” James said. “But I don’t live my life thinking about legacy. What I do away from earth is what means more to me than I do on earth.”
What he did, both on and off Earth, was how to define myths.
“I think it’s a true testament to his greatness, being able to maintain this kind of success year after year,” said Miami coach Eric Spielstra. “Uniforms are different. New players and new teams chasing after him. It is a true testament to this commitment. He saw everything. At this point in his career, it’s just about winning. “
Others won more. But no one in the NBA won the way James did.
Tim Reynolds is a national basketball writer for The Associated Press. Write to it in treynolds (at) ap.org
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