LeBron James' seventh consecutive NBA Finals trip comes as no surprise.
His domination of the Eastern Conference is an inevitability in today's NBA. The season starts in October, we play 82 games plus a few postseason rounds, and when June rolls around, LeBron leads his squad to a best-of-seven showdown for the Larry O'Brien trophy.
With every passing season, those Eastern foes grow weaker. Free agents flee, as superteams coalesce in the Western Conference and try to lay seige to The King's throne. That Eastern decimation paves an ever easier road for his conquest, perpetuating the cycle.
A cynic will turn a wry eye on LeBron's record, point to his Finals failings, laugh at his conference foes, and wonder what all the fuss is about. Shouldn't this great basketball player march through the first three rounds of the postseason every year?
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While it's true that an NBA Finals without LeBron James over the past seven years would have been more surprising than his current streak, NBA history should show how impressive LeBron's current run is.
Nothing inevitable pans out — from the 73-19 Warriors' 2016 coronation to the "This is going to be fun!" Lakers with Dwight Howard and Steve Nash to, well, LeBron's last superteam in Miami. At some point, injury or ego steps in to disrupt fate, destroying even the best laid plans by the smartest basketball minds.
The closest LeBron comes to injury is his tendency to rest. He's shaken off ankle tweaks and knee twists that would sideline other players for weeks, getting up to lead his team to victory. He's a cyborg rocking a basketball jersey, a Terminator of Eastern foes.
Even when he's lost teammates such as Kevin Love, LeBron has managed to drag his team to the Finals. If Kyrie Irving had gone down before Game 1 against the Warriors in 2015, Cleveland still would have made it through the East, because LeBron is that good — and that durable.
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And while LeBron has switched teams twice in pursuit of championship glory, that instability makes his streak slightly more impressive, as well.
Having talented teammates is one thing. Getting everyone on the same page is quite another — and typically, a title contender needs years to jel.
Franchises like the San Antonio Spurs and the Jordan-era Bulls built dynasties out of that year-to-year consistency. The role players changed. Sometimes, starters did, too. Yet the cores remained intact, growing together and getting better each season.
LeBron, by his own volition, hasn't had the benefit of such consistency. He's had to start anew every few seasons, yet he's managed to crush the competition no matter where he calls home because he adapts to the situation at hand.
Whether his team needs a scorer, a playmaker, a defensive stopper, a loud-mouthed leader, or a guy setting the standard by example, LeBron answers the call, allowing his teammates to be the best versions of themselves.
He's no saint for abandoning the Cavaliers in 2010 and hightailing his way out of Miami after winning two titles.
He's no Michael Jordan, either, with a perfect six-for-six record in the Finals.
He's just LeBron. His success in multiple organizations, with a litany of teammates and without an all-time coach shepherding him along the way, is impressive in its own right.