LeBron more concerned with Spurs than legacy

LeBron more concerned with Spurs than legacy
June 5, 2013, 7:00 pm
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Missing from LeBron James' list of accomplishments are multiple NBA championships. He'll look to rectify that starting Thursday night.

(AP Photo)

MIAMI — Nine All-Star selections.

Four league MVP awards.

Rookie of the Year.

All-NBA first team, seven times.

The list of accomplishments by LeBron James is lengthy, leaving no doubt that he's the best player in the game today.

Still, for him to truly find a spot among the NBA's all-time greats, multiple NBA titles isn't a goal; it's a necessity.

James will get a crack at another one with the Heat facing the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA Finals beginning with Game 1 Thursday night. This will be his fourth NBA Finals and last season's championship was the only time his team has emerged victorious.

While he is well aware of the significance of a second NBA title as it relates to his place in the history books, James' attention is squarely on finding a way to knock off the Spurs.

"I don't play this game for my legacy," he said. "I play the game because I love it and I have fun playing it, and I love the competitive side of it. Once I'm done, I don't ... you guys will write my legacy and say what I've done for this game."

By winning the league MVP award this past season for the fourth time, he joins a select group of four-time (or more) league MVPs that includes Wilt Chamberlain who also won the award four times, as well as Michael Jordan (5), Bill Russell (5) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (6).

But what separates all of them from James?

They all won multiple NBA championships.

For James, winning a second title would be even more special coming against the Spurs, who swept him and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2007 NBA Finals.

As much as James speaks in the present and talks about taking advantage of the moment, he readily admits that the 2007 Finals still lingers.

"I have something in me that they took in '07," James said. "Beat us on our home floor, celebrated on our home floor. I won't forget that. You shouldn't as a competitor. You should never forget that."

Gregg Popovich knows the LeBron James he will see in this year's NBA Finals is much, much better than the 22-year-old his Spurs crew dismantled six years ago.

"That was like ancient history," Popovich said. "He was basically a neophyte at the time, wondering how all this stuff worked and how it's put together. We were very fortunate at that time to get him so early.

Popovich added, "but at this point he's grown."

No part of James' game has evolved since then more than his jumper.

This past season, James shot a career-high 56.5 percent from the field as well as 40.6 percent on threes, which was also a career-best mark.

If you throw out his three-point shooting numbers and focus solely on his twos - many of which were jumpers - his shooting percentage becomes better than 60 percent.
 
In 2007, the Spurs went under on a lot of pick-and-rolls and basically dared James to shoot jumpers.

That strategy won't work in this series.

"If you go into my pick-and-roll now, I'm going to shoot," James said. "And I'm confident I'm going to make every last one of them. I'm just more confident in my ability to shoot the ball.

James added, "I'm a better player, and you can't dare me to do anything I don't want to do in 2013."

The Spurs have no illusions of shutting him down.

That's not happening.

Simply put, San Antonio wants to do just enough to win the series and send James home from the Finals without a title for the third time in four NBA Finals appearances.

"He's playing unbelievable basketball," the Spurs' Tony Parker said of James. "We'll try to do the best we can to try to slow him down. You can't stop him. That's for sure."