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LeBron James' seventh NBA Finals appearance could be the one that defines his legacy

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Seeing LeBron James in the NBA Finals has almost become the norm. The King will feature for the sixth consecutive time in the Finals, dating back to his days with the Miami Heat where he won two championships. 

This will be the third time he appears on the grandest stage with the Cleveland Cavaliers and he has, as yet, been unable to bring the title to Ohio. 

It's what he came back to do, it's the one missing ingredient to his extraordinary career and it's an achievement that could define his legacy for the better. If he loses for the fifth time in the Finals, however, his legacy could head in a different direction.

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Despite losing to the Golden State Warriors last year, LeBron was almost afforded a pass as he took on the deepest and most talented team in the league without Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, who both suffered long-term injuries in that postseason. 

But with those players, and the entire Cavaliers roster now healthy, James will not be granted the same treatment this time around if he fails to bring the Larry O'Brien trophy to Ohio. 

The Cavs have been rolling in the playoffs and head into the rematch with the Warriors with a 12-2 record. They are averaging 106.9 points per game, which is second to the defending champions.

They have the best field goal percentage in the playoffs (47.5), the best three-point field goal percentage (43.4) and average the most threes at 14. It's clear the Cavaliers have taken a leaf out of the Warriors' book by becoming an efficient team from behind the arc. 

Cleveland Cavaliers v Toronto Raptors - Game Six

It will be dangerous for the Cavs to try and beat the Dubs at their own game, though. They may have a number of good shooters from downtown, but the Oakland-based outfit has two of the greatest shooters the game has ever seen in Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, who can average Cleveland's 14 makes by themselves on any given night. 

Beating a historic franchise who has set the bar extremely high this year will be no easy feat for LeBron and co. but not many will care for that. Even if the Dubs cap an incredible season with a second straight championship, the headlines will focus on James losing a third Finals in a row and a fifth in total.

LEGACY

There is no doubting that the four-time MVP will go down as one of the greatest players to ever step on the hardwood, but if his Finals record becomes 2-5, many people will find it difficult to place him alongside the Michael Jordan's of this world.  

A defeat to the Warriors once again will diminish and tarnish his legacy despite his great accomplishments throughout his time in the league; that's just the ruthless nature of being an NBA superstar.  

Cleveland Cavaliers v Toronto Raptors - Game Six

Speaking after the Cavaliers secured the Eastern Conference championship and advanced to the NBA Finals again, LeBron gave an emotional interview to ESPN's Doris Burke where he spoke about how much the moment meant to him and revealed a different side to him we don't normally see on camera.

"It's emotional to be a part of something like this, it's my sixth straight, it means everything," he said as he fought back tears.

Make no mistake about it, the pressure will be on the 31-year-old to deliver not just for himself, but the entire city of Cleveland.

Six straight Finals is an almighty achievement in itself, but not one he'll be remembered for when he finally calls time on his career.

If the two-time champion finally succeeds in his dream of winning a championship for his hometown team, however, there can be no debating his place among the elite. 

Cleveland, Ohio, has been craving a title for so long and their hopes have always rested on the shoulders one of their own.

"I know our city deserves it," James said. "Our fans deserve it. But that gives us no sense of entitlement. We've still got to go out and do it."

The quest begins again on Thursday as game one of the 2016 showpiece tips off at the Oracle Arena.

Topics:
Eastern Conference
NBA
Kyrie Irving
Cleveland Cavaliers
Central Division
LeBron James

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