Throughout his career, LeBron James has made a habit of making historic feats look routine and the extraordinary seem ordinary. So even as he led the Lakers to a Western Conference championship with a 38-point, 16-assist, 10-rebound triple-double in the 117-107 Game 5 win over the Nuggets, it’s hard for anyone to truly say they were surprised.
Even at age 35, in his 17th season in the NBA, it seemed inevitable that James would advance to the NBA Finals for the 10th time in his career and the ninth time in the last 10 seasons. He’s been doing this for so long, it just feels like it’s a given at this point.
NBA superstars at age 35
• Michael Jordan: retired
• Larry Bird: limited to 45 games (retired at end of season)
• Shaquille O’Neal: 13.6 PPG, traded to Phoenix
• Wilt Chamberlain: 14.8 PPG (lowest in career to that point)
• LeBron James: headed to 9th NBA Finals in 10 years pic.twitter.com/qLdaWWAArJ
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) September 27, 2020
Of course, James reminded his teammates in his postgame interview that this kind of success is never given — it’s earned. And you never stop having to earn it. James was reminded of that last year as he missed the playoffs for the first time after an injury-plagued season.
“We are going to enjoy it tonight,” James said. “But we understand we got bigger fish to fry. We understand there’s a bigger goal but we can’t take this for granted because this doesn’t happen every year to anybody.”
As the team gathered to be honored with the Western Conference trophy, James sat calmly alone on the court, quietly contemplating where he’s been in his career, the highs and lows, how he got there, the respect he had for the Nuggets and their head coach Mike Malone. And then his mind started to turn toward to what’s next.
“Boston had a few moments in my head, and Miami had a few moments in my head as well,” James said. “Whoever wins that series and how challenging that’s going to be.”
James’ message to his teammates was clear as the players walked back towards the locker room: “Job not done.”