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LeBron James primed to cement all-time great legacy at Lakers

July 3 2018 1:02 PM

The Cleveland Cavaliers were never going to win the NBA Finals.

When LeBron James scores 51 points - not forgetting eight rebounds and assists - and you still cannot beat the Golden State Warriors, you are not going to come out on top in a seven-game series.

Perhaps the Cavs could have won if JR Smith had not forgotten the score and decided he was "going rover" like Will Ferrell's Jackie Moon in Semi-Pro, sending game one to overtime and making James' bemused reaction – a picture of frustration, bafflement and anger – an internet sensation.

The fact James let his emotions get the better of him and played the rest of the Finals with a broken hand made a sweeping inevitable. It did not stop him moving past fellow greatest of all time candidate Michael Jordan for the most 30-point playoff games in NBA history later in the series, but it was the final straw. 

With the Cavs going nowhere, the four-time MVP jumped ship.

James' decision to join the Los Angeles Lakers adds to the obscene amount of talent in the Western Conference, where he will hope to get one over the Warriors once again to secure the fourth ring he craves so desperately.

Should he do so, the 33-year-old would leave a legacy that few could better.

Six-time NBA champion Jordan defined an era with the Chicago Bulls, but glory in LA - and a title with a third different team - could well give James an edge.

James incredibly had one of his best seasons in his 15th year in the league. He did not miss even one of the Cavs' 104 games, averaged 27.5 points in the regular season - his most prolific since 2009-10 - matched a career best of 8.6 rebounds per match and averaged a personal high of 9.1 assists. Not bad.

Furthermore, James was at his most effective from three-point range, taking five per match and shooting at 36.7 per cent.

Clearly there is no rush for him to take the Lakers, one of the NBA's most storied franchises, from a low ebb to a title.

His powers are not on the decline, so James can build the team he wants in a city he loves, while he gets to start out with an exciting young core that includes talents like Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma.

The Lakers have the salary-cap flexibility to become a behemoth once more, with James a huge pull for other stars wanting to challenge the Warriors' empire and attempt to upset the status quo.

But knocking off the Warriors will be by no means easy and James will be well aware of that. 

It has been reported he attempted to persuade Kevin Durant to join him in LA, thus weakening the Warriors. But Durant, the Finals MVP in Golden State's successive triumphs over the Cavs, will re-sign with the Warriors on a deal that leaves room to make further moves.

A shock one-year deal for DeMarcus Cousins fits that bill and makes the Warriors even stronger – Steve Kerr can now call upon five All-Stars in his starting line-up. Such a superteam is unprecedented in the modern NBA, but it is the challenge James must overcome.

Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey branded the league a "weapons race" after trading for Chris Paul ahead of the 2017-18 season.

Mike D'Antoni's team went on to have the best regular-season record, but they still fell to Golden State in the Western Conference finals in the absence of the often-injured Paul.

Conquering the Warriors has become an even more daunting feat, but one that, should he achieve it for the second time in his career, would take James a step closer to individual immortality.

If anyone can do it, it is LeBron.

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