With an easy 113-87 victory, the Cavaliers punched their ticket to a second straight NBA Finals appearance. For LeBron James, it will be his sixth straight appearance, something only eight other NBA players have ever done.
When push comes to shove, the thing that matters in the NBA is talent. Cleveland has elite level talent. Toronto has a nice team built around two very good—not elite—players, and that was the difference in this series.
There was no way the Cavaliers were going to lose this series, but props to Toronto for making the Eastern Conference Finals as close as possible. And extra props to Kyle Lowry, who swung his stuff in game six and dropped a game high 35. The Raptors, who set a whole bunch of franchise records this season, went down swinging. There is no shame in that.
But now that the Cavs have dispatched them, it’s time to talk LeBron’s legacy. As previously mentioned, tonight he became just the eighth player to reach six straight NBA Finals. The other seven were various members of Bill Russell’s Celtics, which reached 10 straight Finals from ’57 to ’67.
In essence, LeBron just joined Russell as the only superstar to reach as many straight Finals. He has now won 18 straight Eastern Conference series.
What’s more impressive? Russell’s NBA had eight teams. James’ has 30. His year to year dominance is something we have simply never seen. His throttle on the East is a marvel in of itself, regardless of what happens in this year’s Finals.
His reign has seen the coming and going of great teams—the Boston Celtics, the Indiana Pacers, the Chicago Bulls, even last year’s Atlanta Hawks—none of which have toppled LeBron James.
And there is no reason to think this streak will die anytime soon. As long as no transcendent star switches conferences (sorry, Boston, but KD seems quite happy at the moment), LeBron could push this thing to seven, eight, even nine conference titles in a row.
The King of Akron is already one of the best 10 players ever. Four MVPs, two titles, All-Star games, first team All-NBA appearances; he’s done it all. But a third title against either the 73 win Warriors or the Finally-Their-Time Thunder would propel him to the stratosphere of Michal, Magic, Kareem, Larry, and Bill.
If he enters the NBA Finals and leaves with a ring, he will have carried an unsure cast and a rookie coach to the first championship in Cavalier history.
If he topples the best of the mighty Western Conference, he will have cemented himself as the greatest small forward of All-Time, and perhaps the second greatest player ever, only behind the man he has been compared to his entire career.
Image via Cleveland.com