LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – He was standing on the sidelines as his teammate Anthony Davis spoke to reporters about how his first season with the Los Angeles Lakers gave him the first NBA Finals anchor of his career, LeBron James he was asked what he means for the 10th final of his career.
“Right now, it does not mean s – unless I do,” James told ESPN after the Lakers’ 117-107 Game 5 win over the Denver Nuggets on Saturday to win the Western Conference crown. “I must do it.”
The Nuggets are definitely over. James scored 16 of the game’s 38 points in the fourth quarter, going 7-for-10 from the field to the final. He showed his remaining skills throughout the game, with 16 rebounds and 10 assists to record his 27th career in the triple-double playoffs, second only to Magic Johnson in his 30s.
But James, the No. 1 leader of the NBA season, put the ball in the bucket. The last six goals scored in the fourth quarter were all without help, a draw for the most solo shots he made in the fourth quarter of a playoff game in his career, according to the data of Second Spectrum. It was the most points ever scored in the fourth quarter of a series, and he was successful in several of them, improving to 38-10 (.792) in closing games, the best record in those games with any player in league history (at least 25 games), according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
As he broke the jump after a jump over the Denver defenders – his five jumps in the fourth tie for the most jump shots he had in the fourth quarter of any game since Second Spectrum started watching in 2013-14 – he remembered the first time he slipped into a Lakers uniform for a pre-season game in San Diego two years ago. The Lakers played the Nuggets.
“I remember this pre-season game,” James told ESPN. “I remember running out of the tunnel. I remember the first pass I made was to the most improved player this year [Brandon Ingram], for a layup and it was a great time. And I remember the first shot I did was a kickout 3 [Nikola] Jockey. I remember that. And the crowd. Dime. It was special. It was special. “
There were no crowds on Saturday, except for about a dozen members of the Lakers family sitting at the stands at the AdventHealth Arena, as COVID-19 has the NBA finish its season in a bubble where daily testing is mandatory, but it was still special in itself.
When asked to say a few words on the main court after the white and gold confetti fell to honor the Lakers’ first trip to the Finals since 2010, when Kobe Bryant drove Los Angeles after his opponent, Boston The Celtics, in seven games, have allowed themselves to live in the moment.
“We will enjoy it tonight as we should, because that does not promise every year,” said James. “There are only two teams that can advance to the finals each year. That means almost 30 players who only advance to the finals each year. We will enjoy it tonight, but we understand that we have bigger fish to fry. We understand there is a bigger goal, but no We can take it for granted because it does not happen to anyone every year. “
And not every year is like what the Lakers endured to get to this point. From the almost cancellation of the pre-season games abroad, to the tragic death of Bryant in January, to the 4½ month gap due to the coronavirus pandemic, a lot has passed.
“I’ve been fed all year,” James told ESPN. “All year. Even during the finish. I was still trained.”
Along the way, Bryant, a manic worker on his own, became a source of inspiration and motivation as the team broke the conversation by shouting “1-2-3 Mamba!” and wore special black snake skin t-shirts in the playoffs in his honor.
For James, who reiterated Bryant’s announcement that he would drop out of college to “transfer my talents” to the NBA when he left Cleveland in 2010 to “transfer my talents to South Beach,” his statement that he has “Bigger fish to fry” was just a coincidence. Bryant explicitly said this rowing during the 2006 playoffs, when it was suggested that Raja Bell from the Phoenix Suns had locked him in defense.
“Did he do it?” James told ESPN when he was informed of the parallel wording. “Oh, s —. Really? Yes, I did not know. I did not know. It is funny. There is some crazy s — it happens.”
In the sense of basketball, nothing is wilder than the challenge that James expects in the Finals. If the Miami Heat advance – which is 3-2 for the Celtics Eastern Conference finals – they will face their old team, led by its architect, Pat Riley, who rubbed James the wrong way when he left Miami back in Cleveland in 2014.
If Boston returns, James and the Lakers will have the opportunity to tie the Celtics for the most leagues in league history with 17, beating the team in front of them to do so.
And a win would also give him the fourth championship of his career in the same position that Bryant won his fourth: Orlando.
All this is at stake. Even though James’s 10 final appearances connect him for the third more often Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, following only 11 by Sam Jones and 12 by Bill Russell. Although the Lakers have insisted on a lot to get to this point, there is still a lot to do.
If James can finish the season with a championship and a final MVP, he will become the first player to win this award with three franchises. It may not be Bryant who plays all 20 seasons with the Lakers, or Michael Jordan winning all six times in the championship, but it’s his true story.
“I just want to travel my own journey, because it’s my journey. I have appreciated everything that happened along the way. I mean, all the time – the ups and downs, the ups and downs, the ups and downs on the pitch, the wins and the losses, “said James. “”
Before it was time to play Sinatra as a swan song, however, James was considering a verse from Jay-Z’s 2003 song “Public Service Announcement” as his guide.
“Finish your breakfast,” James told ESPN, citing Jay-Z’s way of saying you have to get the job done. “Mmmmm. Finish your breakfast.”