- Ezra Shaw/Getty
LeBron James enters his sixth-straight NBA Finals Thursday night when he and the Cleveland Cavaliers take on the Golden State Warriors in a rematch of last year’s Finals.
James nearly carried the Cavaliers by himself in last year’s Finals, but ultimately ran out of gas, his championship record falling to 2-6 in his career.
So, in James’ third attempt at winning it all with the Cavs, it would seem the pressure is on him to deliver a championship to his hometown, his stated mission when he returned to Cleveland in 2014.
However, when speaking to the media on Wednesday, James was asked about the pressure of trying to win a championship, and he gave a thoughtful reply about where he is in his career and what it means to even be playing in the Finals (via ESPN’s Dave McMenamin).
“I don’t really get involved into the whole pressure thing,” James said. “I think I’ve exceeded expectations in my life as a professional. I’m a statistic that was supposed to go the other way – growing up in the inner city, having a single-parent household. It was just me and my mother. So everything I’ve done has been a success.
“So as far as the game of basketball, I just go out and play it and have fun and love it and be true to the game and to my teammates and live with the results. So I don’t – [it] doesn’t really get to me too much.”
James is right, of course, about defying the odds of even making it to where he is. He’s been wildly successful by any measurement, and he’s also committed himself to giving back to others to give them the same chance.
This is also a far cry from where James was in 2011, his first season with the Heat. After being chastised for a year for leaving Cleveland to join Miami, James wilted in the Finals under the pressure of trying to deliver his first championship. He looked noticeably tight and unhappy.
The following year, James admitted he needed an attitude change, and it resulted in back-to-back championships. He’s since lost his last two trips to the Finals, but not because of his own play or attitude.
At a time when LeBron could be worried about his legacy or falling just short of accomplishing a huge goal, it sounds like his mind is in the right place. Whether that translates to the floor in this series remains to be seen, but at least he’s approaching the game from what seems like a comfortable place.