LeBron's legacy assured but Jordan's might glow brighter

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  • Michael Jordan
    Michael Jordan
    American basketball player and businessman
  • LeBron James
    LeBron James

Cleveland (AFP) - One loss from his fifth defeat in eight NBA Finals appearances, Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James is matter-of-fact about his legacy, living in the moment and having nothing left to prove.

But when it comes to comparisons to retired Chicago Bulls star Michael Jordan, the 1990s playmaker might just have the edge on "King" James.

The Golden State Warriors lead the defending champion Cavaliers 3-0 in the best-of-seven series entering game four Friday at Cleveland.

At 15-0 in the playoffs, the Warriors are on the brink of becoming the first NBA team to charge through the playoffs unbeaten to a title.

No team in 126 tries has ever rallied from 3-0 down to win an NBA playoff series, so James -- playing in his seventh consecutive finals -- figures to fall to 3-5 in the championship round, going 2-2 with Miami and facing a 1-3 mark plus second sweep out with Cleveland.

"I don't get caught up in what I've done over the years. I get drawn in too much of what I'm doing right now in the present," James said.

"I never really talk about my legacy. I kind of just live in the moment and if I'm able to accomplish something, then it kind of adds to it on its own."

Barring a miracle rally, only two players in NBA history will have suffered more finals defeats than James. Former Los Angeles Lakers stars Elgin Baylor and Jerry West each lost eight times, in part during the 1960s Boston Celtics dynasty era.

Jordan had a killer instinct and supporting talent that saw him go 6-0 in NBA Finals appearances and James has used childhood idol Jordan's feats as a measuring stick to motivate himself.

"Comparing between people either living or still playing or not playing, it's great for barbershops," James said. "But for me I'm just trying to leave a legacy behind so I can inspire the next group of kids."

- Jordan feats inspire LeBron -

Jordan's six NBA titles are twice as many as James and Jordan leads in Most Valuable Player awards five to four.

But James passed Jordan last month to become the all-time NBA playoffs scoring leader and enters Friday only one point behind Jordan for third on the all-time NBA Finals scoring list with 1,175.

"It has nothing to do with passing him in (totals). It's just my personal goal to keep me motivated," James said. "You guys want to have the conversations about who's the greatest of all time, things of that nature, it doesn't matter to me."

James has been prolific in reaching the finals, the only man to get two teams there four times, but has struggled to hoist the trophies.

The Cavaliers fell behind the Warriors 3-1 in last year's finals before James sparked the greatest comeback in NBA Finals history to bring Cleveland its first major sports title in 52 years. In an unprecedented feat, James led the finals in scoring, rebounds, assists, steals and blocked shots.

This year is nearly the same despite the Cavs being winless, James averaging 32.4 points, 8.8 rebounds, 7.6 assists, 2.0 steals and 1.38 blocked shots, standing second only in blocks and rebounds.

"I want, once I hang it up and not play this game anymore, that people can look at what I was able to accomplish -- win, lose or draw -- and say that he made a difference," James said. "So that's what I'm here for."

- Every reign must end -

James, 32, says he isn't trying to prove critics wrong as he did in younger days.

"I left that in my 20s," James said. "I'm not in the 'prove people wrong, silence critics' department no more. I got a promotion when I got to the 30s.

"I know what I've done and I know the way I'm built. My only motivation is to be able to compete for a championship every single year."

Bringing a championship to hometown fans in Cleveland fulfilled a dream but kept James ever cautious.

"I don't like to be satisfied too much," he said. "Because then you become complacent."

It's a concern that keeps him at the gym every morning. Because every "King" knows all reigns must end.

"My mental motor is still going and my physical motor is trying to keep up with it," James said. "I won't be able to play this game forever, but I do know I'll be able to work out for quite a while."