LeBron James has won a lot of basketball games over the course of his 17-year career. That statement is especially true in the postseason.
On Wednesday, when the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Houston Rockets in Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinals, he passed Derek Fisher to become the winningest player in NBA playoff history. Since then, he’s won two more games, bringing his total number of postseason wins to 164.
For James’ supporters, it’s another testament to his historic dominance. For James’ detractors, it’s an example of his inability to finish the job. For James, though, it’s just another day at the office.
“I know what it comes with,” James said after the Lakers’ 119-96 win over the Rockets on Saturday. “I know what my name, my stature, and what I’ve done in this league comes with whenever I decide to join a franchise ... I know what my name comes with, and it comes with winning. And I take that responsibility more than anything because I am a winner and I’ve always been a winner, from the first time I ever played organized basketball.
“I was taught the game the right way from my little league coaches. They taught me how to play the game, how to play for my teammates, it’s never about you and the true definition of ‘there’s no I in team.’ And I was able to win doing that and learning the game, all the way from when I was nine years old until I became a professional at 18. I’ve won at every level, so it’s always kind of worked for me.”
Prior to last season, James hadn’t missed the postseason since his third year in the league. He also made the Finals eight consecutive times, which is tied for the third-longest Finals streak of all time. Bill Russell holds the all-time record for consecutive Finals appearances with 11.
James had hoped to continue that streak in his first year with the Lakers, but due to a combination of poor roster management, locker room problems and injuries — including the most devastating injury of James’ career to date — his streak came to an end.
This season, James and the Lakers finished the regular season with the best record in the Western Conference, and they’ve carried that success into the postseason, where they’ve gone 8-2. While James is still eight wins away from lifting the Larry O’Brien trophy for the fourth time in his career, he’s proud of what he’s been able to accomplish with his teammates so far.
“I understand the Laker faithful and what they felt, or were going through over the last decade of not being in the postseason, not competing for championships ... And I took that responsibility as well. So I’m happy I’m able to do a little bit of a part of it, and the rest of my ball club and the coaching staff and everybody that’s put the sacrifice in getting this franchise back to competing for a championship, which we’ve done all year.”
The Lakers will play Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals on Friday, Sep. 18.