For a decade, LeBron James has made conquering the Eastern Conference his routine.
A team led by James has qualified for the title round seven times during the 10-year span, a feat only equalled by the dominant Boston squads shepherded by Bill Russell in the 1960’s.
Only reaching the summit has proven to be elusive for James, as he has vanquished all of his foes in the NBA twice during his torrid stretch of greatness.
A win Sunday night in Golden State would be the culmination of a lifetime of work for the best player to be selected since the start of the new century, as he would fulfill the massive promise of bringing the city Cleveland its first championship title in more than 50 years.
A loss to the greatest regular season team in NBA could solidify James as the most significant hurdle an entire generation had to clear to achieve greatness.
Tim Duncan cemented himself as the most dominant power forward to ever play the game by defeating James in 2007.
The Celtics hung the first banner into the rafters at TD Bank Garden as Kevin Garnett survived an epic Game 7 performance from James in the 2008 Eastern Conference semifinals.
Dirk Nowitzki forever shed his inappropriate label of being soft as his Mavericks defeated Miami in one of the biggest upsets in NBA Finals history.
Even Stephen Curry didn’t become a full-fledged superstar until his Warriors overcame a historic effort from James a year ago.
Despite losing to Golden State last season in six games, James was nearly crowned the the MVP of the 2015 NBA Finals, as he became the first player ever to simultaneously post the highest scoring (35.8 points per game), rebounding (13.3) and assist (8.8) averages for an entire championship series.
This season, he has been even more dominant.
James is leading all performers in points, assists, steals, blocks and is tied with Tristan Thompson for the most rebounds in the 2016 NBA Finals.
Sunday will mark the 40th time James has appeared in an NBA Finals game (Russell holds the record with 70 games played) and his numbers have been staggering.
The 31-year-old has averaged 27.0 points, 9.9 rebounds and 7.1 assists per game during championship round play.
A victory Sunday night would unquestionably move James into the upper echelon of greatness, placing him among the most successful players ever to play the game, joining the likes of Russell, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Kobe Bryant.
If the Cavaliers are able to prevail, they will accomplish something not even Russell has managed in the championship round, overcoming a 3-1 series deficit.
Cleveland is just the third out of 32 possible teams to even force a Game 7 after falling behind 3-1 during an NBA Finals series.
Since dropping Game 4 at home, James has morphed into the most complete player ever to step onto the court, posting 41 points, 12 rebounds, 9.0 assists, 3.5 steals and 3.5 blocks during a pair of potential elimination games.
The home team has clinched a Game 7 victory on five consecutive occasions, with the last coming from Miami as James totaled 37 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and two steals in 45 minutes against the Spurs in 2013.
An NBA Finals series has gone the entire distance on 18 occasions, with the home team winning 15 times.
The last team to win a Game 7 in the championship round on the road was the Washington Bullets in 1978, while the Celtics accomplished the feat twice during their 11 championships title run from 1957 to 1969.
For Cleveland to join the rarified company, it will have to defeat the Warriors — a team that lost just nine times during the regular season — on three consecutive occasions.
Golden State hasn’t dropped three straight games since a stretch from Nov. 20-23 and Curry wasn’t active for the first two games after he was entered into the NBA’s concussion protocol after he dove onto the floor for a loose ball late in the fourth quarter during a game against Utah.
Any team featuring James has the capability of disrupting the destiny of other franchises throughout the league.
James is capable of taking over a game in a variety of ways, dominating on both ends of the floor.
After 48 minutes Sunday night, James will be viewed primarily in two ways.
Either one of the greatest champions the sport has ever seen, delivering a title to his home town, or the most difficult final obstacle, the final hurdle to clear before another team can stake their claim as the best in the NBA.