Basketball

LeBron James: I’m chasing Michael Jordan’s ghost

Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James (23) is congratulated by his teammates as he holds the Larry O’Brien Trophy after defeating the Golden State Warriors in Game 7 of the NBA Finals on Sunday, June 19, 2016, at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group/TNS)
Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James (23) is congratulated by his teammates as he holds the Larry O’Brien Trophy after defeating the Golden State Warriors in Game 7 of the NBA Finals on Sunday, June 19, 2016, at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group/TNS) TNS

LeBron James isn’t playing for USA Basketball in the Olympics, but he is getting ready for the upcoming NBA season by chasing a ghost.

On the cover of Sports Illustrated for the 25th time, the NBA Finals MVP reveals that his new motivation after winning one for The (Cleve) Land is catching Michael Jordan, the Charlotte Hornets owner.

“My motivation,” he said, “is this ghost I’m chasing. The ghost played in Chicago.”

Later, James expounds on his thoughts.

“My career is totally different than Michael Jordan’s,” he said. “…What I’ve gone through is totally different than what he went through. What he did was unbelievable, and I watched it unfold. I looked up to him so much. I think it’s cool to put myself in position to be one of those great players, but if I can ever put myself in position to be the greatest player, that would be something extraordinary.”

James also talks about watching the Finals Game 7 win at Golden State and still being surprised by it all.

“You ever watch a movie that you’ve already seen, so you know what’s going to happen, but you’re still like, What is going to happen?,” James said. “I just watched the O.J. special on FX, and the judge is reading the verdict—Orenthal James Simpson—and I’m on the edge of my seat. I knew what was going to happen, of course, but I felt like I didn’t. This is the same thing. I know we win. But I don’t really know what happened.”

James said this third NBA ring -- which brings him halfway to Ghost Jordan’s iconic six -- means more to him than the two he won in Miami -- “because of everything it represents” he said -- and shared a text he sent to his teammates after Cleveland lost Game 4 to Golden State to get within one more loss of losing the Finals.

“No matter how we got to this point, we’re here now,” it read. “We have to go to Golden State for Game 5 and we have to come home anyway. So why not come home and play a Game 6. . . . Let it go, play hard, be focused, follow my lead, and I’ll make sure you get home for a Game 6.”

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