There's very little left for LeBron James to prove as a basketball player. He's the all-time leading scorer in NBA Playoff history, a four-time MVP, and a candidate to go down as the GOAT when his career ends. The discussion of LeBron at this point is not so much about the game-to-game results as it is the big picture achievements.
Though he's just days away from starting another NBA Finals, LeBron is aware of how he's being judged. With James in his seventh straight Finals between two different teams, he told ESPN's Dave McMenamin that he feels his legacy is up there with almost anyone:
I think it's going to be great for my legacy, once I'm done playing the game and can look back on the game and say, 'Oh, this guy went to three straight Finals, four straight Finals, five, six whatever'. I think it's great to be talked about, see what I was able to accomplish as an individual.
When you talk about longevity and being able to just play at a high level for a long period of time, and I've been fortunate enough to be able to do that and be a part of two franchises that ... being able to take two franchises to four Finals apiece ... no one has ever done that either, so I'm always happy and proud. ... I've always been proud to be part of the biggest stage in our league, and it's the Finals.
He's not wrong! Although LeBron has his critics who try to downplay what he has achieved—and his ability to get it done in the clutch—he has a list of accomplishments worth being proud about. Even if he can never convince the Skip Bayless' of the world, there's no reason he should shy away from discussion of his legacy. No one else does, after all.
LeBron's background also provides him with some peace of mind heading into a matchup with the Golden State Warriors. A lot of analysts believe these Warriors are the best team he has ever faced, but with those last seven Finals appearances in mind, James was happy to point out he has stared down a ton of Hall of Fame talent in the past. Matchups with the San Antonio Spurs and "Big Three" era Boston Celtics helped prepare him for this moment.
That doesn't mean he's taking Golden State lightly. "It’s going to be very challenging not only on me mentally," he said, "but on our ballclub and on our franchise."
The goalposts never stop moving in the public's judgment of LeBron James, and there will probably be a new wave of slander if the Warriors end up taking the title. But if you ask LeBron, Cleveland has a pretty good shot at getting the job done, and Cleveland's star has his mind on goals bigger than just this series.
"I think it's just the joy of being able to compete for a championship," he said. "If you add more pressure to it, I don't believe in it."