We've run out of clever ways to describe what LeBron James does on the basketball court.
James has checked every box. All of the individual and team accolades are there on his resume. He has already solidified his place in basketball lore and created a legitimate debate as to whether he will go down as the greatest player of all time. But just this once, it's fine to put away the talk about James' status among the NBA's elite and just appreciate what he has accomplished this season.
Sunday night in Boston, James added arguably the most impressive chapter to his legacy.
In what could go down as the most trying season of his career, James somehow managed to drag a very average, inconsistent Cavaliers roster - perhaps the worst supporting cast of his NBA career, though the 2006-07 Cavs would like a word here - to a fourth consecutive NBA Finals appearance. Just think about everything that went wrong along the way.
The season began on a very sour note for Cleveland. The departure of former general manager David Griffin ultimately played a significant role in Kyrie Irving demanding a trade last summer. Then, the Irving deal with the Celtics, executed under new GM Koby Altman (who earned plenty of praise at the time), turned out to be a total disaster for the Cavs.
Isaiah Thomas was a shell of himself after returning from a devastating hip injury. Jae Crowder never fit quite right. The coveted Brooklyn pick fell to No. 8 in the lottery. But the Cavs weren't done making moves yet.
Altman was forced to overhaul the roster again at the trade deadline - send out Thomas and Crowder plus veterans Dwyane Wade and Derrick Rose, bring on George Hill, Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr. and Rodney Hood. Just a quick refresh only two months before the playoffs. Normal stuff for a supposed contender.
As if that wasn't enough adversity, head coach Tyronn Lue missed a handful of games in the regular season to focus on his health, and Kevin Love missed 20 games with a broken hand. JR Smith threw soup at an assistant coach.
He. Threw. Soup. At. A. Coach.
The Cavs were in a constant state of turmoil, even beyond the daily chaos you expect out of Cleveland. The talk of LeBron having no choice but to leave at the end of the year was heating up.
The postseason brought about a whole new set of issues for Cleveland. An upstart Pacers team forced the Cavs to the brink of elimination. The only thing that kept Cleveland from an embarrassing first-round exit? Three 40-point games from James.
After cruising to a four-game sweep of the Raptors in the conference semifinals (a couple game-winners from James helped the cause), the Cavs faced the surprising Celtics with an NBA Finals appearance on the line. Following two blowout losses to open the series, James averaged 35.6 points in Games 3-7, including lines of 46-11-9 and 35-15-9 in Games 6 and 7 with Love sidelined for all but five minutes of those contests.
We have come to expect superhuman performances from James at the biggest moments. His greatness creates an unfair expectation not just for him, but for other stars across the league. And yet, he keeps delivering, after playing all 82 games in the regular season and more than 54,000 total minutes in his career.
For James to navigate this Cavs team to another Finals appearance is nothing short of miraculous.
The Cavs have been hard to figure out all season long. Sweep the Raptors, and they're back to business. Get crushed by the Celtics, and all those concerns pop up again. Cleveland doesn't play defence. There's no secondary scoring. James can't just keep doing everything.
And that's what makes this run so impressive. When we look back historically, has there been a single Finals team that has relied on one player as much as these Cavs? Without James, they are most likely stuck in lottery range. With James? They are in position to compete for another championship.
Allen Iverson scored or assisted on 47% of the 76ers points en route to the 2001 NBA Finals.- Micah Adams (@MicahAdams13) May 28, 2018
LeBron has exceeded that in three separate runs through the East: 2007, 2015 and now 2018.
AI was a great one-man band act, but nobody does it like LeBron.
Cleveland will be a heavy underdog in the Finals, regardless of the opponent. Both the Warriors and the Rockets will be expected to eliminate the Cavs with little difficulty.
But for the first time since that 2006-07 season, a championship may not be the necessary result in order for James to receive the adulation he deserves.
He has already done what many thought was impossible. He single-handedly put a team on his back and willed it to a championship appearance.
No matter what happens in the NBA Finals, James has found a way to leave us speechless once again. No clever phrases, no colourful descriptions.
There is simply respect.