Coming into this NBA season, it seemed improbable, or even impossible, for LeBron James to extend the limits of his remarkable talent. Turning 33 last December, he is at an age when most athletes are at the end or past their prime. Few have maintained an extraordinary high level of production or elevated their capacity to uplift a team to a championship stature this late in their careers.
James was already considered by many basketball critics as one of the top five players of all time. It’s a subjective debate, one that even the most convincing quantitative data and qualitative premises won’t definitively settle. Yet anyone making the claim he is the best ever has a strong case. After carrying the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 4-0 sweep over the shell-shocked Toronto Raptors in their Eastern Conference semifinals matchup, James provided his supporters with further evidence of his unparalleled basketball brilliance.
Game 4 Monday night was a mere formality. The Cavaliers toyed with the Raptors’ psyche and emotions, deepening their opponents’ inferiority complex with a noncompetitive 128-93 blowout. It was easy work for James as he had 29 points, 11 assists and 8 rebounds in 38 minutes.
“To be able to put ourselves in position where we can represent the Eastern Conference in the finals, that’s all you can ask for,” James said. “So we’re excited about being part of the Eastern Conference finals once again and having the opportunity to compete for a championship. That is what our goal is.”
A plurality of basketball fans plausibly picked the No. 1 seeded Raptors to defeat the No. 3 seeded Cavaliers in the best-of-seven series. After overhauling their roster at the NBA trade deadline, the Cavaliers were ostensibly the most vulnerable they had been since James’ return to the franchise in the summer of 2014 after four seasons and two titles with the Miami Heat.
Furthermore, the Raptors, who had been ousted by the Cavaliers from the playoffs in the previous two seasons, had fortified their bench this season to augment a solid starting cast and appeared equipped to end James’ quest to reach his eighth straight NBA Finals.
Quietly, James viewed such talk as basketball blasphemy and summarily reminded everyone why he remains king. Now, he and the Cavaliers await the winner of the Boston Celtics-Philadelphia 76ers series. The No. 2 seed Celtics held a 3-1 lead with an opportunity to close out the No. 3 seed 76ers last night in Boston.