In a dominant performance in the clinching Game 5 victory over the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals, Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James posted 35 points.
In the process, the 32-year-old passed Michael Jordan to become the NBA’s all-time leading playoff scorer.
For James, who had worshipped Jordan growing up, it was a very important moment and was one that he never foresaw coming.
"I mean, I've watched Mike so much in the postseason and seeing what he did, and the games that he played and the games that he mastered," James told Howard Beck of Bleacher Report. “To be honest, no, I would have never guessed it.”
While James certainly has shown an ability to fill the scoring column, the main reason that he never could have imagined being the playoff scoring leader is due to the fact that he has prided himself in not necessarily being a shoot-first player.
"I'm not a scorer, man. I've worked too hard in my career to have that label, from the beginning. I want the right play, I've always loved the success of my teammates—and so, I'm not a scorer," he told Beck. “I’m fortunate to be No. 1 in all-time playoff points. But I think that's just a byproduct of me just playing the game the right way.”
This postseason, James is averaging 32.5 points, 8.0 rebounds and 7.0 assists per game for Cleveland, who dropped just one game heading into the NBA Finals.
As a testament to his pass-first mentality, not only did James average a career-high 8.7 assists per game in the regular season, but he also explicitly told Beck that scoring is not his main focus. "I've always felt like I was a triple threat: pass, rebound, score," James explained. "But scoring has never been my concentration on things.”
Therefore, scoring is third on his list behind dishing out dimes and pulling down boards. That doesn't mean that he hasn't put in a lot of time on his shot and offensive abilities, however.
"I've worked on my craft," James quipped. "I've worked on my offensive game, and my shooting, and my posting and things of that nature over the years. But I've always felt like, listen, if you want to be as complete a player as you possibly can, if you have a game where you're not shooting the ball well, you can still be in the game and affect the game. That's what it's all about.”
As you may have noticed, James is able to impact the game in literally every single statistical category on both ends of the floor.
Magic Johnson, who is the all-time playoff triple-double leader with 30, recognized the significance of LeBron passing MJ on the list.
"That's what makes this more special," Magic told Beck. "That's why I love it. Because now I can look at it and say, 'Yeah, see, pass-first guy can still be the leading scorer all-time in the playoffs.' And now also it's gonna help younger players to understand.”
James ranks behind Johnson with 17 playoff triple-doubles. But, since he’s 32-years-old with a number of elite seasons in front of him, that record might also be in his sights someday.