Picture yourself seated on metal bleachers around a basketball court in an aircraft hangar just outside of Los Angeles. Five weeks have passed since Cleveland won their first NBA championship. Around you are 81 of the best amateur players in America, who’ve gathered to participate in Nike’s annual Skills Academy.
You’re here, dissecting the final minutes of Cleveland’s game 7 win over the Golden State Warriors with LeBron James, who’s seeing the footage for the first time.
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As the video plays, LeBron, who’s sat in an armchair near mid-court, explains match-up scenarios, defensive break-downs, screen-and-rolls, and even missed shots to the prospective campers.
When Kyrie Irving’s (now-famous) three-pointer over Stephen Curry goes in, James smiles and lifts three fingers to the air. “That’s cash”, James said with a smile.
The film ends and LeBron faces the audience for a few questions. A camper next to you stands and asks James, “Now that you’ve brought a championship to Cleveland, what motivates you?”
After a bit of beating around the bush with a few cliché answers, LeBron replied while fiddling with his Promise Kept wristband, saying:
“My motivation? My motivation is the ghost I’m chasing. That ghost played in Chicago. What I’ve gone through is totally different than what he went through. What he did was unbelievable, and I watched it unfold. I looked up to him so much. I think it’s cool to put myself in position to be one of those great players, but if I can ever put myself in position to be the greatest player, that would be something extraordinary.”
LeBron’s knowledge of the game is evident when he’s on the floor. Breaking down video is just another aspect of James’ relentless love for basketball. Cavaliers Head Coach Tyronn Lue echoes these sentiments in a sit-down interview with Sports Illustrated, saying:
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“LeBron reminds me sometimes of Kevin Garnett. KG was so engaged in the game that he couldn’t really enjoy it. I’m hoping, now that LeBron won a championship in Cleveland, he can really just enjoy the game and the city and the camaraderie and being the best player in the world, without all the pressure.”
Will LeBron James ascend the ladder of NBA greatness, passing the likes of Michael Jordan, Bill Russell, Magic Johnson, or Larry Bird? Will he catch that elusive Jumpman ghost in the sky? He may not, but you should seriously start considering him in your conversation if you haven’t.