WASHINGTON • LeBron James, who achieved the dream of a lifetime by bringing home Cleveland's first sports title in 52 years, now draws motivation from wanting to eclipse Michael Jordan as the greatest player in National Basketball Association (NBA) history.
James will begin his 14th NBA campaign on Tuesday (Wednesday morning, Singapore time) as the Cavaliers raise a championship banner before their 2016-17 season opener against the New York Knicks.
"I'm looking forward to seeing the banner go up: 2015-16 champions. It means a lot," he said.
The 31-year-old forward, a four-time NBA Most Valuable Player, unleashed one of the NBA's greatest one-man efforts in June as Cleveland made the biggest comeback in NBA Finals history, coming from 1-3 down to beat the Golden State Warriors in the best-of-seven series.
James averaged 29.7 points, 11.3 rebounds, 8.9 assists, 2.3 blocks and 2.6 steals a game - leading the Finals in each category in an unprecedented feat that earned him unanimous NBA Finals MVP honours.
James sought the fairy-tale ending when he returned to Cleveland in 2014, having won two titles in four seasons with the Miami Heat after playing his first seven NBA seasons for the Cavaliers.
JAMES VERSUS JORDAN
Now he admits his drive and inspiration come from trying to overtake former Chicago Bulls star Jordan and be seen as the greatest player in NBA history.
"My motivation is this 'ghost' I'm chasing. The ghost played in Chicago," 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.
"If I can ever put myself in position to be the greatest player, that would be something extraordinary."
Jordan, now 53, won six titles in six trips to the Finals in the 1990s with Chicago, becoming the NBA Finals MVP each time.
He was the regular-season MVP five times, an NBA All-Star 14 times and the NBA scoring champion 10 times. He is also the all-time NBA play-off scoring leader (5,987 points) and ranks fourth on the all-time NBA regular-season scoring list (32,292).
James has three titles at the same age Jordan had won three titles but has already been to seven NBA Finals, including the past six in a row.
He owns three NBA Finals MVP awards from his championship runs in 2012, 2013 and this year.
Both are known for high-leaping and acrobatic slam dunks in their younger days and adapting to age by utilising team-mates more.
James is still writing his story. Only 12 players have more NBA Finals appearances, most of them from the Boston Celtics dynasty in the 1950s and 1960s and the rest from the Los Angeles Lakers.
In his five seasons after age 31, Jordan won three titles with Chicago and made a two-year comeback from retirement with the Washington Wizards from 2001-2003, retiring for good at age 40.
By that scale, James has nine more years to make his case as the greatest of all time.
"That's my personal inspiration. That's what drives me," James told ESPN.
"I'm chasing that greatness. That's how great that ghost was. If I can be in a situation where I'm even talked about as the best basketball player ever, that will be great."