'King James' poised for coronation
LeBron James is grateful for another chance to win his first NBA title and underline his claim as the greatest basketball player in the world.
James and his Miami Heat team-mates reached the finals last year but fell to the Dallas Mavericks in six games. As a 22-year-old in 2007, James and the Cleveland Cavaliers were swept in four games by the San Antonio Spurs.
Now in his second year with the Heat, the self-proclaimed 'King James' has emerged as the team leader and dominant player in the Finals in his third crack at claiming an NBA ring.
The Heat's Game Four victory over Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday gave them a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series, and the chance to clinch the title on their home court on Thursday.
Despite the three-time Most Valuable Player's enviable record and his leading role in the series so far, team-mate Shane Battier said James's place in the NBA pantheon would not be secure without a title.
"In the information age, perceptions and reputations are made and broken down a lot more quickly, a lot more cheaply than they used to be," the 13-year NBA veteran said at the end of Wednesday's practice.
"Whether we like it or not, that's the way we value icons in our society.
"It's how many Oscars have you won, how many Nobel Peace Prizes have you won. Have you been published in the Harvard Business Review? What were your earnings last year as a CEO?
"If you want to be remembered as one of the greatest, you need it. You need it. You can be great but it's difficult to reach the pantheon without it."
James was asked about his disappointing finals last season, when his influence was sorely missed during crunch time throughout the 4-2 series loss to the Mavericks.
"Last year after Game Six, after losing once again, I was very frustrated," the 27-year-old said.
"I was very hurt that I let my team mates down. Last year I played to prove people wrong instead of just playing my game, instead of just going out and having fun and playing a game that I grew up loving.
"The greatest teacher you can have in life is experience. I've experienced some things in my long but short career, and I'm able to make it better for myself throughout these playoffs and throughout this whole year and that's on and off the court."
James said he was not about to get ahead of himself.
"Human nature is to automatically think about after we win it, what are we going to do? I'm not there. I won't get there until those zeros hit and I see that we won," he said.
"I'm the leader of this team, and I'm not comfortable right now. I'm comfortable in my game, but I'm not going to be comfortable until we seal this thing.
"Game Five is a Game Seven for us. It's a must-win for them, but it's a must-win for us, too. As a leader of this team, I'll approach it that way."