LeBron James timeline: The long road to glory in Cleveland

LeBron James keeps making history, and he has shown no signs of slowing down. The Cleveland Cavaliers star will play in the NBA Finals for the seventh straight season, starting Thursday night with Game 1 against the Golden State Warriors.

“I never really talk about my legacy,” James said. “I kind of just live in the moment and if I’m able to accomplish something, then it kind of adds to it on its own.”

Here’s a look back at the key dates in the career of LeBron James:

June 26, 2003: The Cavs draft James with the first pick in the first round of the NBA Draft at Madison Square Garden. James' future teammates with the Miami Heat, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, were taken with the Nos. 4 and 5 picks.

Oct. 29, 2003: James had 25 points, nine assists and six rebounds in his first game, a 106-92 loss to the Sacramento Kings.

“It was the first I’ve seen of him, and I was real impressed,” Sacramento center Vlade Divac said. “He’s the real deal.”

April 14, 2004: James scored 17 points against the New York Knicks in the final game of his rookie season. He won the NBA Rookie of the Year Award, averaging 20.9 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.9 assists.

Jan. 29, 2005: At 20 years and 20 days, James became the youngest player to record a triple double with 27 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists against the Portland Trail Blazers.

May 31, 2007: James scored 48 points against the Detroit Pistons in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals, leading the Cavs to a 109-107 victory in double overtime. He mad the game-winning shot with 2.2 seconds to play.

The Cavs won the next game to advance to the finals, where they were swept by the Spurs. It was the first of seven finals appearances by James in 10 years.

May 5, 2009: James won the first of four NBA MVP awards. He averaged 28.4 points, 7.6 rebounds and 7.2 assists.

"I'm 24 years old and I'm receiving this award, I never thought it would happen this fast," James said. "I never dreamed about being MVP, but if I said I didn't enjoy this award I'd be lying. Hard work pays off and dreams do come true."

July 8, 2010: James announced on an ESPN special, "The Decision," he is going to "take my talents to South Beach and join the Miami Heat."

June 12, 2011: The Heat lose 105-95 to the Dallas Mavericks in Game 6 of the NBA Finals and lose the series 4-2.

June 21, 2012: James won his first of two straight NBA titles as a member of the Heat. He scored 26 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists in a 121-106 rout of the Oklahoma City Thunder.

June 20, 2013: The Heat beat the Spurs 95-88 in Game 7 for their second straight NBA title. James scored 37 points and won his second straight Finals MVP award.

March 3, 2014: James scored a career-high 61 points in a 124-107 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats.

June 15, 2014: James played his last game with the Heat, who lost 4-1 to the Spurs in the finals.

July 11, 2014: James announced he will return to the Cavs, publishing a letter on SI.com.

“I’m not promising a championship,” James wrote. “I know how hard that is to deliver. We’re not ready right now. No way. Of course, I want to win next year, but I’m realistic. It will be a long process, much longer than it was in 2010. My patience will get tested. I know that.”

June 9, 2015: James scored 40 points in a 96-91 victory over the Warriors, giving the Cavs a 2-1 lead in the finals. However, with injured stars Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving on the bench, the Cavs lost the next three games.

June 19, 2016: The Cavs beat the Warriors to claim their first NBA championship. It's the third title for James in seven finals appearances (three with Cleveland, four with Miami).

James became the first player in any playoff series to lead his team in points (29.7), rebounds (11.3), assists (8.9), steals (2.6) and blocks (2.3).

“Throughout my 13-year career,” James said. “I’ve done nothing but be true to the game, give everything I’ve got to the game, put my heart, my blood, sweat, tears into the game, and people still want to doubt what I’m capable of doing. So that was a little icing on the cake for myself to just let me know that everything I’ve done, it results in this. They say hard work pays off, and that’s what happened tonight.”

May 3, 2017: James scored 39 points in a 125-103 victory over the Toronto Raptors, passing Kareem Adbul-Jabbar (5,762) to become the all-time scoring leader in the playoffs.

May 25, 2017: The Cavs beat the Boston Celtics 135-102 to win the Eastern Conference finals 4-1 and secure a third straight NBA Finals matchup against the Warriors.

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