INDEPENDENCE (92.3 The Fan) – If LeBron James is to add a second back-to-back NBA championship to his already lengthy Hall of Fame resume, he’ll have to go through one of the most talented teams in NBA history to do it.
The Golden State Warriors responded to their Game 7 loss to James and the Cavs in 2016 by adding Kevin Durant to their team and although they didn’t equal their record-setting 73-win regular season this year, they blew through the Western Conference and are a perfect 12-0 entering this year’s Finals.
Beating Golden State was already tough enough, before they added Durant.
“He’s one of the most dangerous guys we have in the world already,” James said Sunday afternoon as the Cavs continued preparations of Game 1 of the 2017 Finals, which will be played Thursday night in Oakland. “So it makes it even more dangerous when you equip that talent, that skill with those guys.”
Suffice it to say, James is once again an underdog, especially among the odds-makers in Las Vegas for the sixth time in his 8 Finals appearances.
“I only play blackjack in Vegas anyway, so it doesn’t matter,” James said.
It’s highly likely that just about everyone will pick Durant, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Dramond Green, Andre Iguodala and the Warriors to dethrone the Cavs, and that’s just fine with James.
“I feel good about our chances,” James said. “Very good.”
James has been here before when it comes to facing loaded teams – the San Antonio Spurs in the 2007, 2013 and 2014 Finals immediately came to mind.
“I mean, it’s up there,” James said of the difficult task that awaits in the series. “Obviously, I mean, I’ve played against four hall of famers as well too with Manu [Ginobili], Kawhi [Leonard], Tony [Parker] and Timmy D [Tim Duncan] on the same team. And if you add Pop [head coach Gregg Popovich] in there, that’s five hall of famers.
“So, it’s going to be very challenging. Those guys are going to challenge me, they’re going to challenge our ballclub. This is a high-powered team.”
James also has had to go through the Boston Celtics, who won an NBA title in 2008 and dispatched James from the playoffs in 2008 and 2010 before he was able to get by them in 2011 and 2012 after joining the Miami Heat.
No player had led 2 franchises to 4 Finals until James accomplished the feat when he helped the Cavs advance to their third consecutive Finals by bouncing the Celtics in 5 games Thursday night in Boston.
“It’s going to be great for my legacy once I’m done playing the game,” James said. “I think it’s great to be talked about and see what I was able to accomplish as an individual. You talk about longevity and just being able to play at a high level for a long period of time and I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to do that, and to be able to take 2 franchises to 4 Finals apiece. And no one’s done that either.
“Win, lose or draw, I’ve been proud to be a part of the league’s biggest stage, and that’s The Finals.”
For now though James’ sole focus is on the Warriors and how to prevent that juggernaut from winning 4 games over the next 3 weeks.
James knows what another title would mean to his legacy, especially if he’s able to beat that team, but he’s not applying any more pressure to himself than what he’ll face from Golden State.
“Just the joy of being able to compete for a championship, if you add more pressure to it, I don’t believe in it,” Jame said. “At the end of the day – win, lose or draw – if you left everything on the floor then you can be satisfied with that. Are you happy with the outcome if you lose? Of course not. [Will you] be excited about or have an unbelievable feeling if you win? Of course so but if you leave everything on the floor, everything else takes care of itself.”