Whenever he wants to feel humbled, LeBron James pops in the tapes of the 2007 NBA finals.
The outcome never changes. He got swept. San Antonio outclassed Cleveland four years ago in the title series, and that still serves as a colossal source of motivation for James.
Since then, he's won two MVP awards and earned somewhere in the neighborhood of $200 million. Still, nothing fills the void created by those four losses.
Here comes his chance to change that.
James is heading to the finals for the second time, after he, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh carried the Miami Heat to a wild series-clinching comeback victory in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference final series in Chicago. The season's final challenge is the Dallas Mavericks, who visit Miami in Game 1 of the finals on Tuesday night.
"I think about it all the time," James said of that 2007 series. "I even go back and watch some of those games and see how I wasn't that good of a player, especially on both ends of the floor. You just try to use those moments."
James called Thursday's finish the best few minutes of his life. That might not be overstating things, either.
He was so good in the East finals that his rank among the game's greats became a source of debate Friday sparked, somewhat ironically, by a six-time NBA champion and Chicago icon. In an interview with ESPN Radio, Scottie Pippen said his longtime Bulls teammate Michael Jordan "is probably the greatest scorer to play the game" but James "may be the greatest player to ever play the game."
That set off an explosion on Twitter. Pippen responded first by posting, "For all of you that don't know, I played the game you keep watching and cheering." He softened his stance later, writing: "Don't get me wrong, MJ was and is the greatest. But LeBron could by all means get to his level someday."
A championship ring could add some credence to Pippen's argument.
"That's what we came together for," James said. "That's the goal. The only goal."