Thursday marks 17 years to the day since LeBron James made his NBA debut with the Cleveland Cavaliers against the Sacramento Kings.

The number one overall draft pick, who had 25 points in his first game, went on to win the Rookie of the Year award in 2003-04 and has been at the forefront of the league ever since.

James has been MVP on four occasions and earlier this month collected his fourth championship ring, also winning Finals MVP for a fourth time at the age of 35.

Only three other players have been named Finals MVP after their 35th birthday: fellow greats Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and, of course, Michael Jordan.

But how did they fare in the final years of their careers after being the main men on title-winning teams as veterans? And how might that colour what we can expect from LeBron beyond year 17?

We use Stats Perform Data to take a look.
 

WILT CHAMBERLAIN - 1972 Finals MVP, aged 35

The Finals MVP award was not introduced until the 1969 series when Chamberlain was already in his 30s – by then an NBA champion with the Philadelphia 76ers and a four-time MVP – but he was belatedly recognised as he guided the Lakers past the New York Knicks three years later, winning their first title since moving to Los Angeles.

But Wilt would not then go on to add to his honours as he played just one more season before retiring.

The veteran still played all 82 regular season games in 1972-73, averaging more minutes (43.2) than in the championship-winning campaign, but he endured the lowest scoring year of his career, with 13.2 points per game. He had peaked at 50.4 points 11 years earlier.

Shooting less regularly, there were still flashes of Chamberlain's old magic as he remarkably had the NBA's highest all-time field-goal percentage across a season (minimum 500 attempts) with 72.7 per cent made. Only DeAndre Jordan in three straight seasons with the Los Angeles Clippers – between 2014 and 2017 – has shot above 70 per cent.

The Lakers will certainly hope James does not go down the same path, having been backed to play into his 40s by LA assistant Jason Kidd and former Miami Heat team-mate Dwyane Wade.
 

KAREEM ABDUL-JABBAR - 1985 Finals MVP, aged 38

Abdul-Jabbar won his first Finals MVP with the Milwaukee Bucks the year before Chamberlain's but, despite collecting two more rings in the interim, had to wait until 1985 to be hailed again as the postseason's outstanding player. Kareem outperformed Lakers team-mate Magic Johnson – 12 years his junior – as they beat the Boston Celtics and he became the oldest NBA Finals MVP.

And yet his career was not over, with the support of Johnson surely an example the 2020 Lakers would like to follow as Anthony Davis aids LeBron.

Abdul-Jabbar's production actually improved in the season he turned 39 – scoring 23.4 points per game, up from 22.0 – but that would be the last year he averaged at least 20.0, ending a record 17-season streak that has since been matched by Karl Malone and James, who can surpass that mark in 2020-21.

The Lakers kept winning as Kareem's numbers understandably dropped, though, taking the title in 1987 and 1988 – led by Johnson and James Worthy.

A 42-year-old Abdul-Jabbar retired in 1989 after seeing his field-goal percentage dip below 50 per cent in a season for the first time at 47.5. His astounding 19-year stretch of making more than half of his attempts stands as a record, later tied by Shaquille O'Neal.


MICHAEL JORDAN - 1998 Finals MVP, aged 35

Jordan might be considered the clear rival to James in the 'GOAT' debate, but LeBron is not likely to follow in MJ's footsteps after his 'Last Dance' with the Chicago Bulls in 1998. Beating the Utah Jazz, he won a third straight title and a third straight Finals MVP for the second time yet was done at the top level thereafter.

The 35-year-old retired from the sport again, only to return once more in 2001 with the Washington Wizards.

Jordan would donate his salary to relief efforts after the September 11 terror attack but struggled to deliver on the floor as he battled injuries.

The statistics when MJ did appear in 2001-02 – he made 53 starts in 60 regular season games – did not make for great reading. The five-time MVP ranked worst in the league for three-point percentage (minimum 50 attempts) at 18.9 per cent, making just 10. He was 41st of the 48 players who attempted at least 1000 field goals that year at 41.6 per cent.

Jordan quit the sport for good in 2003.
 

LEBRON JAMES - 2020 Finals MVP, aged 35

If Abdul-Jabbar provides the best example of how a superstar should treat the final years of his career, LeBron appears well placed to similarly profit.

With the arrival of Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans last year, James' game changed to incorporate a second elite scorer, becoming a passer as he logged a career-high 10.2 assists per game.

LeBron became the oldest player in NBA history to average 25.0 points and 10.0 assists. No rival has ever managed such a performance past the age of 30, let alone 35.

Crucially, the former Cavs man was also more protected. He visited the foul line less often (down from 7.6 free-throw attempts to 5.7) and recorded fewer rebounds (down from 8.5 to 7.8)

And his 34.6 minutes per game – a career-low – represented the fewest in league history while scoring 25.0 points and 10.0 assists.

With a gruelling next season just around the corner, James is likely to play even fewer minutes again but, alongside Davis, still looks primed to make the difference when it matters most.

NBA players feel "negative" towards the proposal to restart the league on December 22, according to National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) executive director Michele Roberts.

The 2019-20 season was suspended for over four months during the coronavirus pandemic and was finished in a bio-secure bubble in Florida, though the regular season was reduced from 82 games, with the Los Angeles Lakers winning the NBA Finals on October 11.

The NBA is said to be hoping for a 72-game regular season for 2020-21, beginning three days before Christmas Day, with free agency commencing shortly after the draft on November 18 and training camps starting on December 1.

Roberts does not consider that to be a workable solution and says players she has spoken to are against the idea.

"Given all that has to be resolved between now and a December 22 date, factoring that there will be financial risks by a later start date, it defies common sense that it can all be done in time," Roberts told The Athletic.

"Our players deserve the right to have some runway so that they can plan for a start that soon. The overwhelming response from the players that I have received to this proposal has been negative."

The deadline for the NBA or NBPA to serve notice to terminate the collective bargaining agreement is set for Friday, though the parties can extend negotiations beyond that point.

"The union and the players are analysing all of the information and will not be rushed. We have requested and are receiving data from the parties involved and will work on a counterproposal as expeditiously as possible," said Roberts.

She stressed it was wrong to consider Friday "as a drop dead date”.

Roberts added: "This summer, up through just two short weeks ago, our players accepted the challenges posed by and risks to their personal health and safety in order to save our season.

"Separated from their communities and their families, these men lived in isolation for months. Each day could have been met with the news that this awful virus had invaded their space and they were exposed to likely infection. They stayed the course, followed the protocol and, as a result, were able to deliver fabulous competition and completed the season able to crown a champion.

"It has been reported that those efforts generated an additional $1.5billion of revenue to be enjoyed by the players – and the team owners."

Danny Green expects superstar Los Angeles Lakers team-mate LeBron James to rest if the 2020-21 NBA season gets underway on December 22.

The NBA is reportedly planning for a 72-game regular-season schedule, which would begin prior to Christmas Day.

James, 35, helped the Lakers to their first championship in 10 years after topping the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals inside the Orlando bubble amid the coronavirus pandemic earlier this month.

Lakers guard Green, 33, commented on the league's plans for the upcoming campaign.

"If we start in December, I think most guys [are like], 'I'm not going to be there,'" Green told The Ringer NBA Show podcast. "If I had to guess, because we have a lot of vets [veterans] on our team, it's not like we have a lot of young guys or rookies ... to have that quick of a restart, I wouldn't expect to see [LeBron] there.

"I wouldn't expect to see him probably for the first month of the season. He'll probably be working out with us ... but I just don't expect guys to want to be there, or show up willingly.

"I think at this moment, and it might be different in two weeks when guys are like, 'All right, I'm gonna get back in the gym, start working out.'

"When we get back in the gym, it's not right to basketball. It's, 'All right, let me start getting into shape' -- lifting a little bit, start running around a little bit. Then I'll pick up a ball."

James celebrated a fourth league title after posting his 11th Finals triple-double of 28 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists against the Heat at Walt Disney World Resort, where the Lakers sealed a 4-2 series triumph.

It was his first championship with the Lakers, having struggled for form and fitness during his maiden season in Los Angeles in 2018-19.

James set the record for most postseason appearances with 260, while the veteran became the first player in NBA, MLB, NFL and NHL history to win the Finals MVP with three different teams, having also received the honour with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Miami Heat, per Stats Perform.

In his 17th season, James moved clear of Magic Johnson, Shaquille O'Neal and Tim Duncan with a fourth Finals MVP – now only trailing Michael Jordan (six).

James is the fourth player all-time to score 30,000-plus points and win four or more championships. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar tops the list with 38,387 points and six titles, ahead of Michael Jordan (32,292 points and six titles) and Kobe Bryant (33,643 points and five titles).

Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash said the franchise are "playing for a championship" as he prepares for his first season in charge.

Nash has taken his first steps into senior coaching, appointed by the Nets to replace Kenny Atkinson, despite the Basketball Hall of Famer's lack of experience.

The Nets have suffered back-to-back first-round exits in the NBA playoffs, while Brooklyn have not reached the NBA Finals since consecutive trips in 2002 and 2003, which were both unsuccessful.

Nash will have superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving at his disposal and the two-time MVP is aiming high in Brooklyn.

"We're playing for a championship," Nash told season-ticket holders during a virtual event on Tuesday.

"I don't want to say that anything less than a championship is not a success because you never know what happens in life, you never know the way the ball bounces. Fortune is a big part of winning an NBA championship.

Tyronn Lue believes star duo Kawhi Leonard and Paul George will remain with the Los Angeles Clippers for a "long time" if championships are won as the new head coach embraces pressure of success.

Lue will lead the Clippers in 2020-21 after replacing Doc Rivers following the team's stunning Western Conference semi-final exit in the NBA playoffs.

The Clippers were one of the favourites to claim their maiden title following the arrivals of Leonard and George but squandered a 3-1 lead against the Denver Nuggets at Walt Disney World Resort amid the coronavirus pandemic.

After going all-in to build a super team to outshine LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers – who reigned supreme in the Orlando bubble – pressure will again be on the Clippers to deliver a championship as time runs out.

"Any time you have a chance to win a championship, it's pressure," Lue told ESPN's 'The Jump' in an interview to be aired Thursday.

"And, I think Kawhi, PG are here to stay for a long time. We just gotta make it a great environment and we have to win."

Lue fronted the media for the first time since being appointed, stepping up to fill Rivers' void having served as an assistant for the Clippers in 2019-20.

The 43-year-old Lue guided the Cleveland Cavaliers to their first championship in 2016 – a team headline by James.

There were high hopes for the Clippers, boasting two-time champion Leonard, six-time All-Star George, Patrick Beverley and Lou Williams but team chemistry and leadership derailed the Los Angeles franchise last term.

The 2019-20 campaign was the ninth consecutive season the Clippers finished with a winning record (49-23) but failed to reach the Conference finals – the longest streak of its kind in NBA history, per Stats Perform.

"I think when you talk about chemistry and continuity, it is not off the court, the guys not liking each other," Lue told reporters on Wednesday.

"When you talk about chemistry, it is more so [George] came in and he had shoulder surgery, so he was out, he missed the whole training camp and was out the first 11 games of the season. Kawhi came in and couldn't participate in the whole training camp, and then we lost Pat Beverley, in and out of the lin-up a few times."

One of the Clippers' biggest strengths is their bench, averaging over 50 points per game in each of the past two seasons – the only times any team have done that in the past 35 years.

But in the playoffs this past season, the Clippers relied much more heavily on their starters as their bench averaged only 36.5 points per game in the postseason.

With the Clippers built to win now, their ageing roster also presents a problem. They are one of the oldest teams in the league, fourth and only behind the Houston Rockets (30 years, 179 days), Milwaukee Bucks (29 years, 321 days) and Lakers (29 years, 201 days) with an average of 28 years and 153 days.

"Leadership is different," Lue said. "You can talk about our two players, Kawhi and PG, they lead by example ... And you are not going to have the best players be the natural leaders at all times. It doesn't happen like that. I think a lot of leadership has to come from me, has to come from Kawhi, PG, Lou and Pat Beverley. It's going to be collective.

"I got to show them different ways of leadership and they got to show me different ways of leadership. I don't know everything. They don't know everything ... The biggest thing about leadership is just communication."

Stan Van Gundy will get the chance to coach Zion Williamson after agreeing to take charge of the New Orleans Pelicans.

He will take over from Alvin Gentry, who was fired as head coach after the Pelicans failed to reach the playoffs, finishing a season disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic 30-42 and 13th in the Western Conference.

Van Gundy's previous coaching stint with the Detroit Pistons came to an end in 2018. He has also had spells with the Miami Heat and Orlando Magic, leading the latter to the NBA Finals in 2008-09.

"I'm excited to join a talented New Orleans Pelicans team," Van Gundy said in a tweet confirming his arrival. 

"It will be an honour to work with our players and to work for [owner] Mrs. Benson and [executive vice-president of basketball operations] David Griffin, [general manager] Trajan Langdon, their staff and the great people of New Orleans.

"I can't wait to talk to our players and get the process started."

Key to that process being successful will be getting the best out of Williamson, the first overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.

Williamson saw the start of his rookie season delayed by a torn meniscus suffered in preseason, though he was still able to demonstrate his tremendous potential when he did take the court.

He became the first teenager in NBA history with 10 successive 20-point games, but Williamson's impact after the resumption of the season in the Orlando bubble was limited by a minutes restriction placed on him by Gentry.

Despite his frustration at that decision, Williamson was still named to the NBA All-Rookie team after averaging 22.5 points and 6.3 rebounds per game.

If Van Gundy can harness that production over the course of a full season, then a talented Pelicans team that also features Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Jrue Holiday will have a much-improved chance of contending for the postseason.

The Los Angeles Clippers believe they have appointed "one of the great minds" in the NBA after Tyronn Lue was confirmed as the team's new head coach. 

Lue served as an assistant for the Clippers in the previous season but steps up to the top job following the departure of Doc Rivers. 

The former first-round pick was previously head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers, compiling a 128-83 record during his time in charge and leading the franchise to their first NBA title in 2016. 

Now he takes charge of a team who fell short of expectations in 2019-20, letting slip a 3-1 lead inside the Florida bubble to be knocked out by the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference semi-finals. 

Rivers parted ways after failing to get the most out of a roster that included Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, though he has since been appointed head coach of the Philadelphia 76ers. 

As for the Clippers, president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank is confident Lue's personality and previous experiences can lift the team to "new heights". 

"Ty has been where we want to go. He is a championship head coach with an extraordinary feel for the game and the people who play it," Frank said. 

"He's one of the great minds in our league, and he's able to impart his vision to others, because he connects with everybody he meets. We conducted a thorough search and spoke with fantastic candidates. We found that the best choice for our team was already in our building. 

"As head coach, Ty will put a unique imprint on the organisation, and drive us to new heights." 

Lue, who steered the Cavs to the NBA Finals for three straight years, will hope to steal the Los Angeles spotlight away from the newly crowned Lakers, but believes all the components for success are in place. 

"The pieces we need are in place – committed ownership, smart management and elite talent, on and off the court, in the NBA's best market," Lue said.  

"We have work to do to become champions, but we have the motivation, the tools, and the support to get there. I'm excited to get started." 

Lue becomes the Clippers' 26th head coach. Terms of his deal were not released, as per team policy.

The Indiana Pacers have appointed Toronto Raptors assistant Nate Bjorkgren as their new head coach, the NBA franchise announced.

Bjorkgren replaces Nate McMillan, who was sacked after the Pacers were swept in the first round of the playoffs for a second consecutive year.

The 45-year-old Bjorkgren served as Raptors assistant for the past two seasons, helping Toronto to their first NBA championship in 2018-19.

"I am honoured to take on the role as head coach of the Indiana Pacers," said Bjorkgren. "This is something I have prepared for during my career. I want to thank Kevin, Chad [Buchanan], Kelly [Krauskopf], Larry Bird, Donnie Walsh, and Herb and Steve Simon for this opportunity.

"I also want to thank Nick Nurse for giving me my first professional coaching job 14 years ago.

"I'm looking forward to working with this great team to achieve our goal as NBA champions."

Bjorkgren was also player development co-ordinator and assistant coach of the Phoenix Suns between 2015 and 2017, having served as a head coach in the NBA G League for four seasons – compiling a 126-74 record with the Bakersfield Jam (2014-15), Iowa Energy (2013-14), Santa Cruz Warriors (2012-13), and Dakota Wizards (2011-12).

"We are very pleased and excited to have Nate as our new coach," said president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard. "This was an extensive and thorough search, and when we reached the conclusion, we felt strongly Nate is the right coach for us at the right time.

"He comes from a winning background, has experienced championship success, is innovative and his communication skills along with his positivity are tremendous. We all look forward to a long, successful partnership in helping the Pacers move forward."

Daryl Morey is to step down from his position as general manager of the Houston Rockets.

After 14 years with the franchise, the Rockets confirmed that Morey's departure will be effective from November 1.

He will continue to offer assistance to owner Tilman Fertitta in the search for a head coach to replace Mike D'Antoni, who left after Houston lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference semifinals.

The Rockets will promote executive vice-president of basketball operations Rafael Stone to general manager, with Eli Witus working under him.

"After returning from Orlando and reflecting on what has been an amazing 14 years with the Houston Rockets, and after discussing my thoughts with family and close friends, I've decided I'll be stepping away from the Rockets organisation effective November 1st," said Morey in a statement.

"Tilman and I have had many conversations since I returned, and his unwavering support and counsel during our time together has been critical to our success.

"It has been the most gratifying experience of my professional life to lead the Rockets basketball organisation, and I look forward to working with Tilman and the management team on the transition.

"I am very confident that the future – for the Rockets, and for our incredible fans – is in great hands, and that the Rockets will continue to perform at the highest level."

Fertitta added: "On behalf of the entire Rockets organisation, I would like to thank Daryl Morey for his hard work and dedication over the past 14 seasons. Daryl is a brilliant innovator who helped the Rockets become a perennial contender.

"I have truly enjoyed working with Daryl and couldn't have asked for a better general manager to have at the start of my ownership. I wish him and his family all the best."

Houston have reached the playoffs in each of the past eight seasons – the longest active streak in the NBA.

In 2017-18 their 65-17 record was the best in the league, but they were beaten in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals by the Golden State Warriors that season.

The 2019-20 season saw the emergence of Jayson Tatum as a genuine star.

Tatum – the third pick in the 2017 NBA Draft – turned potential into performance as he capped a memorable campaign with All-Star honours for the first time in his career.

An elite scorer, Tatum was at the forefront of everything good about the Celtics before and after the coronavirus pandemic.

But, the Celtics still lost in the Conference finals for the third time in four years – beaten 4-2 by the Miami Heat at Walt Disney World Resort – after finishing third in the east with a 48-24 record.

The Celtics are yet to reach the NBA Finals since 2009-10, while the historic franchise have not got their hands on the Larry O'Brien trophy since the Doc Rivers era in 2007-08.

As the Celtics reflect after watching the Los Angeles Lakers equal their record for most championships (17), we review the team's 2019-20 campaign using Stats Perform data.

 

Boston's dynamic trio

Kemba Walker's arrival in Boston helped create a formidable trio alongside Tatum and Jaylen Brown.

After spending his entire NBA career at the Charlotte Hornets, four-time All-Star Walker opted for a new challenge via free agency by committing to a four-year, $141million contract with the Celtics.

As a result, Terry Rozier left the Celtics for the Hornets in a sign-and-trade last year.

Since investing in Walker, the Celtics have put together a stellar trio, which became just the second group of three team-mates in NBA history to average 20-plus points and 2-plus three-pointers made per game apiece in a season (minimum 50 games played).

Walker averaged 20.4 points and 3.2 three-pointers made per game during the regular season, to go with Tatum (23.4ppg and 2.9 3pm) and Brown (20.3ppg and 2.3 3pm).

The only other trio to do so were the Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson in 2017-18.

 

Tatum joins elite list

It was a coming of age for Tatum, much to the delight of the Celtics and all those connected with the team.

Tatum cemented himself as one of the best players in the league by averaging 23.4 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game – up on his 2018-19 averages of 15.7ppg, 6.0rpg and 2.1 apg.

The 22-year-old also enjoyed a fine playoff campaign, becoming only the third player in NBA history to average 25.0-plus points, 10.0-plus rebounds and 5.0-plus assists per game in a single postseason with 15 or more games played.

Lakers superstar LeBron James (in 2014-15 and 2019-20) and Boston's Larry Bird (in 1983-84 and 1986-87) are the only other players to reach the feat.

 

Lack of depth

For all of Boston's good work and impressive starting five, their lack of depth was exposed in the playoffs.

The Celtics relied on their starters more than any other team in the postseason at 83.3 per cent with 1,549 of their 1,859 points scored by the starting five, ahead of the Philadelphia 76ers (83.1 per cent), Indiana Pacers (82.6 per cent), Houston Rockets (77.3 per cent) and Portland Trail Blazers (76.5 per cent).

As for the portion of minutes played by starters in the postseason, the Celtics (75.0 per cent) again topped the list ahead of the Pacers (72.2 per cent), 76ers (72.0 per cent), Utah Jazz (71.8 per cent) and Rockets (70.9 per cent).

The Celtics had fewer than 25 bench points in each of their last 15 playoff games this year, one of the longest streaks in a single postseason in the past 35 years, only behind the Detroit Pistons (19 in 2005) and Pacers (17 in 2013).

The problem of a thin bench was likely exacerbated by the number of close games the Celtics played in, since teams usually need their best players on the floor for longer periods of time in tight encounters.

Boston had eight playoff games decided by five points or less, tied for second most in a single postseason in franchise history.

Also, this was the second consecutive year the Celtics had some issues with turnovers in the playoffs. After going plus-1.4 for turnovers in the regular season, Boston were then minus-1.4 in the postseason.

Jamal Murray's playoff performances caught Joel Anthony by surprise, but the two-time NBA champion still thinks "the ceiling is still extremely high" for the Denver Nuggets star.

The Nuggets showed great resilience to make it to the Western Conference Finals, where they were beaten 4-1 by eventual NBA champions the Los Angeles Lakers.

Murray played a pivotal role for Denver, averaging 26.5 points, 6.6 assists and 4.8 rebounds in the playoffs as Michael Malone's team became the first in history to win two series in the same postseason after trailing 3-1.

The fourth-year guard twice dropped 50 points on the Utah Jazz in the first round and scored 40 points in a Game 7 win against the Los Angeles Clippers in the semifinals.

Anthony, who claimed his two rings alongside LeBron James with the Miami Heat in 2012 and 2013, was thoroughly impressed by fellow Canadian Murray's playoff displays so early in his career.

"We all had a pretty good idea that kid was going to be pretty good. I'm not even sure if this type of performance, we would have thought to see this early. But I'm absolutely loving what he has been able to do," Anthony told Stats Perform News.

"I feel the ceiling is still extremely high. I love the fact that he has been able to have these moments and do it in the biggest stage, which is the playoffs. That is when you are really tested in the league, and I feel he is proving himself a lot.

"I got to meet him a couple of times and as a person, he is a great kid, great individual, great human being. Definitely a pure spirit about the game. Just how he deals with people, he's definitely a special player.

"Denver is fortunate to have a talent that like, but also a great person like that as well."

Anthony believes Murray's impressive development is part of a wider trend that has seen Canadian basketball move onto an upward trajectory.

"Canadian basketball as a whole, I love it, I absolutely love it. The talent that is coming out of this country is really impressive to me," said Anthony.

"Obviously by the numbers you can see just the fact that we have the second-most NBA players of any country, obviously behind the US. That is a huge jump from when I first came in the league, we had two others ... three actually.

"This is something that has actually been a process, and I have actually been able to see this whole process develop, as more and more kids were coming out. I just feel that Canadian basketball is just starting to hit a certain point in the curve, where they are really able to catch up.

"I have been fortunate. I came in undrafted and really had to fight my way to get it. No one really knew about me, I was definitely an unknown. But you have guys coming in that are number one pick in the draft, top-five picks, lottery…

"There is just a lot of talent and I am really happy for the direction that our country is going and it is going to be great to watch."

Anthony hoped to play a part in helping the next generation after joining Canadian Elite Basketball League side the Hamilton Honey Badgers as a player consultant for the 2020 season.

"Coming in my biggest thing was really to just be able to be able to give back to the younger guys. So to be able to help them in any way as they develop as players, trying to help them through these different experiences that they will be going through," said Anthony.

"We have some older players that are a little bit more established, but we also have plenty of younger guys that were just starting to become pros and going through that process, so I really want to be able to help them, give them the type of advice that I would have wanted and that I actually got from different veterans that I had throughout my career.

"I really enjoy that type of role and I was also able to do things on the court with them as well. When you are removed, I was able to actually be on there with them. So physically they are able to see different things, and to have me around was a benefit."

Conquering the NBA with three different teams proves LeBron James has a winning formula and highlights his greatness, according to former team-mate Joel Anthony.

James and the Los Angeles Lakers crushed the Miami Heat 106-93 in Game 6 of the NBA Finals on Sunday to claim their first championship in 10 years.

The four-time NBA MVP was in typically fine form, breaking the record for most playoff appearances with 260 as he posted an 11th Finals triple-double of 28 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists.

The win sealed a fourth ring for 16-time All-Star James, who made history by becoming the first player to be named Finals MVP with three different franchises.

Having previously won the championship with the Heat (2012 and 2013) and the Cleveland Cavaliers (2016), helping the Lakers back to the top of the pile was his ultimate goal upon joining in 2018.

Anthony, who was part of James' Heat team that lifted the Larry O'Brien Trophy in successive years, believes the 35-year-old's greatness is summed up by succeeding with three different sides.

"To me, he's always been a winner," Anthony told Stats Perform News. "He's always played on really good teams, for the most part, except for early on in his career where he was still trying to figure things out.

"He's always been able to win but once he took that next step and he was winning championships, I feel he's definitely figured out the type of formula and gets it. He gets it.

"He knows truly what it takes to be able to win at the highest level. It shows, the fact that clearly the man's been able to do it with three different teams. That in itself explains how much he understands and knows what it takes.

"I would say one of the biggest things about him is his mind. Physically, obviously very impressive, and even more so impressive because he's been able to do it for so long.

"He's averaged close to 30, 10 and eight in the finals. Mentally, where he is, to be able to keep his mind sharp and to be able to also lead and inspire those guys, that's the biggest thing to me.

"Even if he was able to play at a certain level, to be able to bring his team along that journey and to be able to lead them, I feel, is what's really impressive because that is an extremely difficult thing to do."

LeBron James is an NBA champion for the fourth time in his career after playing a typically starring role in the Los Angeles Lakers' 4-2 Finals series triumph over the Miami Heat.

A convincing 106-93 Game 6 win on Sunday earned the Lakers a first NBA title in 10 years, while James became the first player to be named Finals MVP with three different franchises.

James was a two-time champion with the Miami Heat and again with the Cleveland Cavaliers four years ago, prior to his latest success with the Lakers.

It is clear the superstar has been an influence in each of his four championship triumphs, but just how influential has he really been?

We crunch the numbers from each of James' four Finals triumphs to take a look.

2012 – Heat beat Thunder 4-1

It was not until his ninth season in the league that James became an NBA champion and it happened in some style as the Heat blew away the Oklahoma City Thunder a year on from losing the Finals to the Dallas Mavericks.

A 105-94 win in Game 1 proved a false dawn for the Thunder and James was already putting his stamp on the series, providing 30 points despite the Heat's defeat.

There were 32 points in a narrow 100-96 win to tie up the series, while a double-double of 29 points and 14 rebounds in the 91-85 Game 3 victory put the Heat into a lead they would not relinquish.

James really showed his superstar status in the next two games: 26 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds set up a 104-98 win for a 3-1 advantage, while in Game 5 there were 26 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds in a memorable triple-double.

On average, James put up 28.6 points, 7.4 assists and 10.2 rebounds per game across the series, while he nailed 47.3 per cent of his field-goal efforts and 16.7 per cent of three-point attempts.

He made 80.8 per cent of free throws and averaged 0.4 blocks, 1.6 steals and 3.8 turnovers.

 

2013 – Heat beat Spurs 4-3

A year on and a great rivalry produced a great series as the Heat overcame the San Antonio Spurs in seven.

Trailing 2-1 in the series, including a 113-77 rout in Game 3, James came to life to level things again with 33 points in a crucial 109-93 triumph in the fourth contest.

But it was Game 6 when James really produced the goods, where officials had already brought out yellow tape to block out the court for the Spurs' trophy celebrations.

A fired-up James played the entirety of the second half and overtime as the Heat emerged 103-100 winners, with their talisman putting up 32 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds – making the go-ahead shot with one minute and 43 seconds of the additional period to play.

He then scored a game-high 37 points in the decider to lead the Heat to back-to-back titles, the only time James has managed this feat in his career.

Throughout the series, James' numbers were 25.3 points, seven assists and 10.9 rebounds per game, while he was 44.2 per cent from the field.

In terms of free throws, James was 68.3 per cent and his success from three-pointers was 34.8 per cent. Defensively, he had 0.9 blocks, 2.3 steals and 2.6 turnovers on average.

 

2016 – Cavs beat Warriors 4-3

Was this James' finest series win?

With the Cavs trailing 3-1, James led the underdogs to a remarkable comeback against the star-studded Golden State Warriors, who they faced in four straight Finals from 2015 to 2018.

James was the catalyst for putting the Cavs on the board in a Game 3 120-90 blowout, scoring 32 points, collecting 11 rebounds and providing six assists.

Remarkably, he put up 41 points in winning efforts in Games 5 and 6, while a triple-double of 27 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists in the all-or-nothing decider inspired a 93-89 triumph to help the Cavs win their only series of the four against the Warriors.

In total, James averaged 29.7 points, 11.3 rebounds and 8.9 assists. Additionally, he had a 48.6 per cent field goal success rate and nailed 37.1 per cent of his three-pointers and 71.8 per cent of free-throw attempts.

With 2.3 blocks, 2.6 steals and 4.4 turnovers averaged per games, James also played his part defensively in a famous success.

 

2020 – Lakers beat Heat 4-2

After missing out on the playoffs for the first time in 14 years during his first season with the Lakers, James rebounded in style to defeat a familiar franchise this year.

Playing alongside fellow superstar Anthony Davis, the Lakers ended a difficult 2020 – that included the death of the legendary Kobe Bryant and the disruption to the season caused by the coronavirus pandemic – with championship glory.

James was once again series MVP, starting with a double-double of 25 points and 13 rebounds before putting up 33 points in the 124-114 win in Game 2.

One of his best performances over the six showdowns actually came in a losing effort in Game 5 when 40 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists were not enough to prevent a 111-108 defeat.

But it was business as usual in Game 6, a triple-double of 28 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists contributing to the 106-93 triumph that ended the Heat's brave resistance.

As you would expect, the numbers show James' influence. He averaged 29.8 points, 8.5 assists and 11.5 rebounds.

He was 58.6 per cent from the field, 60.8 per cent from the free-throw line and drained 39 per cent of three-point shots, while there were 0.5 blocks, 1.2 steals and 3.5 turnovers per game.

Frank Vogel hailed LeBron James as "the greatest player the basketball universe has ever seen" after he inspired the Los Angeles Lakers to end their NBA title drought.

James claimed a triple-double of 28 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists as the Lakers cruised to a 106-93 Game 6 victory on Sunday to become NBA champions for the first time in a decade.

The legendary James was named NBA Finals MVP for the fourth time and became the first player to land that award for three different franchises.

James is now a four-time NBA champion and Lakers head coach Vogel ranks the 35-year-old as the best player of all time.

Asked about his decision to take the job in May 2019, when there was perceived to be uncertainty around the Lakers, Vogel said: "Well, there's not uncertainty in my mind with LeBron James.

"And [when] I took the job, we didn't have Anthony Davis. We didn't have the whole team. It was a different team after the fact.

"But I have always believed in LeBron James. He's the greatest player the basketball universe has ever seen, and if you think you know, you don't know, okay, until you're around him every day, you're coaching him, you're seeing his mind, you're seeing his adjustments, seeing the way he leads the group. You think you know; you don't know.

"It's just been a remarkable experience coaching him and seeing him take this group that was not in the playoffs last year, the roster was put together overnight, and just taking a group and leading us to the promised land, so they say.

"He was terrific the entire season leading us, and I can't say enough about him."

Vogel paid tribute to the mental strength shown by his players since they entered the bubble at Walt Disney World in Orlando.

He said: "Yeah, I've always believed in our mental toughness, and our experience. Not just LeBron, I believe Anthony Davis was destined to be a champion, and the pairing of the two of them together took us here.

"But the experience of the group, the IQ of the group, [Rajon] Rondo, Danny Green, JaVale McGee having been there, the talent level of the other guys, other guys willing to buy into starring in their roles.

"Just we had a strong belief in this group. When we got into the bubble, it was about focusing on the work, staying in the moment, focusing on day to day, and after one point - I don't know if there was really one point.

"I think beating Portland was a huge confidence booster for us because they were playing as well as anybody in the world. We know what Dame Lillard is capable of, and it just built from each series."

Jimmy Butler feels he "grew in every aspect of the game" this season and is convinced the Miami Heat are "trending in the right direction" despite suffering NBA Finals heartbreak.

A 106-93 defeat to the Los Angeles Lakers in Sunday's Game 6 in Orlando meant the Heat fell to a 4-2 series loss.

Butler's heroics had helped the Heat get to this stage and he averaged 26.2 points, 9.8 assists and 8.3 rebounds throughout the Finals.

Asked what he learnt about himself, Butler replied: "That I'm a decent player. I think that I grew in every aspect of the game.

"So, I can smile about that. More than anything, I've learned that here, me works. Here, I'm always, always, always, always going to believe in my guys.

"I think the one thing that I learned more than anything is how fun it is to play with these guys. It really was fun watching all my young fellas grow, having vets come in and showcase what they can still do and teach me so much. It was a great time."

While hurting from the loss, Butler is convinced this is just the beginning of something special for the Heat.

He added: "We're trending in the right direction. We're going to learn from this. We're going to get better. We're going to come back. We're going to come back. We'll be back. That's what we're all saying in that locker room.

"We got guys that want to do it. We got guys that already want to get back in the gym and get to working at this thing. That's what we do here.

"Like I said, it was a pleasure to play with these guys. We're definitely moving in the right direction."

Butler finally seems to have a settled home in Miami having had short stints at the Minnesota Timberwolves and Philadelphia 76ers after ending a six-year stay at the Chicago Bulls in 2017.

Head coach Erik Spoelstra believes both team and player have benefitted from one another.

"I think that's what we're all looking for is to be part of a family," he said.

"To be a part of something where you felt all along that you were searching for something. Where you can just be yourself, you don't have to make any apologies for who you are. We have been searching for him for a long time and I think he's been searching for something like us for a while.

"Again, you're in this business to be around amazing people and to develop incredible relationships.

"It is about the game, it is about winning, but it also is about being around locker rooms that you'll remember for a long, long time. I'm just thrilled to be able to have an opportunity to coach Jimmy and have a relationship with him and move forward chasing this dream. It's not going to stop.

"We're all wired the same. So, we'll get over this at some point. I don't expect anybody to get over it tonight.

"But we have some brothers in arms now moving forward that we share the same values and the same goals and that's part of the battle of just finding that kind of alignment."

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