After he willed his Cleveland Cavaliers to a gritty Game 7 victory over the Boston Celtics that punched the ticket to his eighth straight NBA Finals, LeBron James took the podium to receive the Eastern Conference championship trophy. He said many things in the moment immediately after playing all 48 minutes of a sudden death showdown, but most importantly, he defended the teammates who have been scrutinized for their shortcomings in the Conference Finals.
“I know I get a lot of the headlines, win, lose or draw, whatever the case may be, but in order to be successful it’s a team game,” he said. “I learned that from when I first picked up a basketball and played organized basketball at age nine. So you get all the doubters and people who’ve never stepped into an arena, who’ve never played basketball, who’ve never put on a tank top and shorts, who’ve never played anything organized, always wanna try to kill my teammates. And it’s unfair to them, but I’m always gonna stay true to the game of basketball because the game of basketball always stayed true to me. That’s why we’re going to another Finals, because of my teammates.”
This is another reason why LeBron is one of the greats
Yes, the Cavaliers players other than James had a rough go in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Celtics keyed in on LeBron and dared his teammates to make plays. Often times, they couldn’t.
But James kept the faith, and that faith paved the way for yet another NBA Finals appearance. The King posted a near triple double with 35 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists in Game 7. Jeff Green came up big with 19, George Hill scored 12 and Tristan Thompson added 10.
“Every possession is its own challenge. As much as I was passing in the first half any my guys weren’t knocking them down, I believed in the second half they would,” he told ESPN’s Doris Burke after the game. “I believed that the Celtics would try to put as many bodies on me, in front of me, and invite the pass to my guys, and dare my guys to shoot and make. I just kept the faith in them, and they did that.”
James is on his way to the NBA Finals for the eight season in a row, and between the Rockets and Warriors, he’ll need to lean on his teammates even more. Because if the Celtics gave The King some issues in the Conference Finals, he’ll have his hands full with an NBA Championship on the line.