LeBron James might be playing his “last” game for the Cleveland Cavaliers for the second and final time on Friday as the NBA superstar prepares to become a free agent on July 1.
James, who could opt out of his contract after the season, said Thursday he was “living the moment now” with the Cavaliers trailing Golden State 3-0 in the best-of-seven NBA Finals entering game four on Friday.
A loss in his eighth consecutive finals would leave James 3-6 in career finals, his first being a 2007 sweep loss to San Antonio.
“I just didn’t have the level of talent to compete,” James said. “I knew my talent level couldn’t get past Boston or San Antonio.”
So James departed the Cavaliers in 2010 to form a superteam in Miami with pals Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh and won two titles in four finals in four seasons.
He returned to the Cavaliers in 2014 vowing to end Cleveland’s sports title drought, something he did by beating the Warriors in 2016 after 52 seasons since the 1964 NFL Browns won a title.
“That was the best team I’ve ever played against,” James said of that Golden State squad. “And then you add one of the best players the NBA has ever seen.”
The Warriors responded to losing to Cleveland by adding Most Valuable Player Kevin Durant and are now on the verge of back-to-back titles with him, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green forming a powerful core to a dynasty.
“Now everyone is trying to figure that out, to put together that talent and those minds,” James said.
‘Slim to none’
And there is curiosity whether or not James might leave Cleveland again to unite with the best possible talent, potentially doing what Durant did with the Warriors to make a champion of such talented rivals as Western Conference runner-up Houston, rising Eastern Conference power Philadelphia or the Los Angeles Lakers.
When it comes to pure talent, James admits the Warriors have more than the Cavaliers, but notes the Cavs have played them tight to the final minutes in two of the three losses.
“We’ve had an opportunity to win two of these games in this series and we haven’t come up with it,” James said.
“Obviously from a talent perspective, top five to our top five, their’s stack up better than us, let’s speak truth.
“They have a lot of talent. We have a lot of talent as well but we’ve been in position where we could win two of these three games. What do we have to do?
“The room for error against a team like this is slim to none. You make mistakes. They make you pay. They’re already more talented than you are. They also have the minds behind it.”
With Kyrie Irving traded before the season to Boston, the first revamped roster struggling and a second rebuild coming at the trade deadline, James has battled to return to the finals.
“This has been one of the most challenging seasons of my career from the standpoint of what has been going on with our ball club,” James said.
“It has been three or four or five seasons wrapped in one.”
James would have wished to have former Cavs and Miami teammate Wade in the backcourt still in the finals, he admitted.
“Absolutely. Not only from a brotherhood aspect but also from experience. He would have been very good for us in the post-season,” James said. “Definitely think of that.”