The Warriors’ biggest challenge this season underscores how impressive LeBron James’ streak has been

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Chris Graythen/Getty

    The Golden State Warriors’ biggest challenge this season is overcoming the mental exhaustion that comes with three Finals runs. Steve Kerr said LeBron James’ streak of seven straight Finals appearances is one of the most impressive accomplishments in NBA history. No player in NBA history has accomplished James’ longevity and consistency.

The Golden State Warriors have had a sluggish, ragged start to the season, a stark contrast from their normal swift, efficient execution.

For the Warriors, that struggle came in the form of a 6-3 record, second in the West, and the NBA’s highest offensive rating, 118.9, nine points higher than any other team, and an 11.7 net rating, highest in the league.

Yet the biggest challenge the Warriors face this season, all season, will be mental fatigue. According to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, all of the Warriors were aware of the mental exhaustion that stems from three straight Finals runs, and quite possibly, a fourth. How does a team stay focused through seven months of regular season play, knowing the real season starts in April when the playoffs begin?

Steve Kerr is aware of the effects that mental exhaustion can have on even the best teams. He told Shelburne that the Warriors’ preparation for a fourth slog to the Finals makes LeBron James all that much more impressive.

“That’s why LeBron [James] going to the Finals seven years in a row, to me, is one of the most amazing accomplishments ever for a player in this league,” Kerr said.

Draymond Green told Shelburne of the Warriors’ collective exhaustion: “Like, we had two months off. Everybody else has five. So they’re going to have time to miss the game. And we kinda don’t have time to get away from it.”

James has done this seven years in a row.

No player outside of Bill Russell has ever done what James has done. Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls accomplished two “threepeats” but they were intersected by Jordan’s two years out of the NBA. Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, and the Los Angeles Lakers looked poised in the early aughts to do what the Warriors are doing, but personalities and infighting broke them up. As Shelburne noted, so many would-be dynasties grew tired of the chase and turned against each other.

Rare is the season in which there isn’t drama around James and his teams – be it over coaching or roster depth – but to his credit, every year they power through it to the Finals. On top of it all, James is already second in postseason minutes played all-time and he’s just 32.

Kerr told Shelburne: “You feel it after a number of years. The team has a different vibe around it, and you’ve gotta fight through that. When I got here three years ago, these guys were bouncing off the walls every night. They couldn’t wait to play. They had lost in the first round [to the Clippers] the previous year. They had this hunger, this motivation.”

Though the Warriors have beaten James two times out of three and looked poised to do so again if the two teams meet in the Finals, they could still learn something from the league’s most durable star.