Why Cleveland's East triumph is one of LeBron's finest moments
We are all still witnesses.
LeBron James is 12 seasons into a Hall of Fame career that will likely go down as one of the two greatest the basketball world has ever seen. The 11-time All-Star has won four Most Valuable Player awards, two championships, two Finals MVPs, and even a couple of Olympic gold medals.
And yet, at 30 years old, with seemingly everything one can accomplish on a basketball court already behind him, King James is enjoying one of his finest individual moments.
It's not quite on par with a 22-year-old James carrying a comically overmatched collection of talent past a generational Detroit Pistons team in 2007, but LeBron's performance in carrying the 2015 version of the Cleveland Cavaliers to the finals is awe-inspiring in its own right.
In the Akron, Ohio native's first season back home, the Cavs went from being the worst NBA team of the last four years to a team four wins away from bringing Cleveland its first championship in 51 years. From perennial lottery laughingstock to Eastern Conference champions, sweeping the top-seeded, 60-win Atlanta Hawks to complete a 12-2 cruise through the Eastern Conference playoffs despite losing Kevin Love four games in and missing Kyrie Irving for half of the East Finals.
An astronomical usage rate of 36.4 percent has tanked his efficiency (49.2 TS%), but James has averaged 27.6 points, 10.4 rebounds, 8.3 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.3 blocks during Cleveland's playoff run, flirting with a triple-double average in the conference finals and becoming the first player ever to average at least 30, 10 and nine in a playoff series.
General manager David Griffin deserves credit for pulling the trigger on a couple of season-changing trades in January, with Timofey Mozgov, J.R. Smith, and Iman Shumpert shoring up a porous defense, and helping the Cavs to a 34-9 finish after a tumultuous 19-20 start.
But even while their D needed saving and the Cavs sat a game under .500 in mid-January, they were 18-11 with James in the lineup before trading for Moz, Shump and Earl - a .620 winning percentage that still would have had them on pace for a Central Division crown and the East's No. 2 seed.
For the season, Cleveland went 50-19 with James and 3-10 without him. They outscored opponents by nearly 10 points per 100 possessions (+9.8) with LeBron on the court and were outscored by nearly seven (-6.9) with him on the bench.
Forget injuries, chemistry, opposing stars, and supporting casts. LeBron James remains the singular deciding factor in the Eastern Conference, and now he's off to his fifth straight NBA Finals - and sixth in nine years - to prove it.
Beating an all-time Warriors team (sorry, Houston) four times in seven games may be asking too much of the banged-up Cavs, especially considering Golden State's devastating homecourt advantage. And there will be some who will hold a 2-4 finals record against LeBron's legacy.
But what happens from here on out shouldn't matter much for a legacy that's already all but cemented. Twelve seasons in and at 30 years old, LeBron James still reigns supreme.
Long live the king.