LeBron James waits by laying the Lakers' Western Conference champion trophy on the court. (Mark J. Terrill)
No matter that the NBA playoffs are being played between September and October in a “bubble” in Orlando amid a COVID-19 pandemic, LeBron James found a way to enlarge his legend in the league.
In his 17th season, James will play in a 10th final after the Los Angeles Lakers eliminated the Denver Nuggets 117-107 in Game 5 of the Western Conference final on Saturday.
James is the fourth player in history with 10 finishes to his ribs. The No. 23, 35, is behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (10), Sam Jones (11) and Bill Russell (12) on the all-time list.
To put it in perspective, in the last 13 finals, James has been in ten. He has five with the Cleveland Cavaliers (2007, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018) and four with the Miami Heat (2011, 2012, 2014 and 2014).
In 2019, he was eliminated from the playoffs after his first season with the Lakers, which was full of injuries. Previously, James had made eight consecutive trips to the finals.
“He has had a weight on his shoulders all year. They underestimate everyone. To be in the Eastern Conference and get everything he could to come West, it's a great achievement to do it with a third team, “Lakers manager Frank Vogel said of James.
James is 3-6 in the championship series and will play for his fourth trophy against the Heat or the Boston Celtics.
In Saturday's win, James posted his 27th triple-double with 38 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists. He joined James Worthy as the only players with at least 30 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists in the history of the playoffs. Worthy recorded similar numbers in 1988.
“My teammates told me to take them home and I have a responsibility to make the right plays to win games. We have a couple of players on the team who haven't played in a final and I take that responsibility as well. My shoulders are wide enough to carry a lot of weight but my mind is stronger , “said James.
“We are going to celebrate this tonight but we know there is a bigger fish to catch, a great goal to conquer,” he added.
In these playoffs, James also broke the record for a player with the most wins in the postseason, beating Derek Fisher's 162 wins.