At 31, he’s hoping he’s only halfway through this playoff run in his 13th season in the NBA, his team a perfect 8-0 in the playoffs. At six-foot-eight and a sculpted 250 pounds, he looks like an action figure in his tight, long-sleeved grey Cavs-issued shirt.
He pulled his lower lip in as the question was asked, half shrugged and looked away.
Thirteen years, two championships, six trips to the final and four MVP awards later, being among the last four teams in the league is nothing new for James (this is the sixth year in a row he’s gotten this far). And as the Cavs ready for their second straight third-round appearance while eying more, they have the 31-year-old been-there, done-it-all James as their rock.
Even if Curry, now a back-to-back MVP and defending NBA champ, holds the sceptre in the NBA, James is still roving the basketball kingdom, still plotting, still trying to get back on top. Up against a Raptors team that has wandered into this realm for the first time, that’s an enormous advantage for the Cavaliers.
Through the Cavs’ eight-game run in the playoffs, James’ 23.5 points per game are the lowest he has scored in the post-season. And yet his team is undefeated, raining three-pointers down and following his team-first lead.
“That’s what LeBron’s always been known for, is to make his team better,” Lue said. “We had two all-stars go down last year (in Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving) and he carried us all the way to the NBA finals.”
James’ focus all season, game by game and now series by series, has been to get back to that stage.
“A guy like LeBron, he does make your job easier but at any given time he can take over the game when need be,” Lue continued. “Just like in Atlanta (in Game 4) he took the ball into his hands, he dominated and he brought us home a win.”
James stands there, unflinching when his place in the game has been questioned, really, for the first time in his life over the last two seasons. The man that’s built like an action figure is built for everything that comes with being LeBron James.
“It goes to show that he took on all the criticism and he’s able to win,” Lue said of James’ success over the last six years. “It’s a tough burden sometimes and the media, the scrutiny, it follows him everywhere he goes and he’s handled it great.”