LeBron James attends the NBA Finals almost every year. He just does it as a player. This is only the second Finals series since 2011 that James hasn’t participated in on the court, but with his close friend Chris Paul playing for the Phoenix Suns, he decided to take in the action from courtside for Game 5. As he explained on camera, Paul attended his first trip to the Finals in 2007, so now he’s returning the favor.
“I’m proud as hell of CP. I’m here for CP,” LeBron said during the game. “He came to my first Finals appearance, and this is me giving it back to him, man. We support each other. We’ve been a brotherhood since we came into the league, and we’re gonna ride and die with one another.”
In the end, LeBron’s presence did not lead to a Suns win as the Bucks prevailed 123-119 to take a 3-2 Finals lead with a chance to clinch the title Tuesday night in Milwaukee.
James himself has reached the Finals 10 times. He’s won four championships in those trips, and with the Los Angeles Lakers likely to get healthy by next season, he’s still competing for more of them. His chance to add ring No. 5 was dashed, ironically, by these very Suns, who defeated the Lakers in six games after Anthony Davis got hurt in Game 4 of their first-round series.
But James doesn’t hold a grudge. He’s been tweeting after each Suns win in this series as a countdown to Paul’s first championship. Paul, who was in the same high school class as James and has been a close friend of his throughout their careers, had never reached the Finals before this season.
James is currently promoting his new film, “Space Jam: A New Legacy,” which opened in theaters on Friday. Promoting the movie is the reason he cited for not playing for Team USA at the Olympics this offseason, but being able to attend his friend’s Finals games is certainly a nice side benefit. Still, if his own history is any indication, James has no intention of attending the Finals as a fan next season. He’ll want to be back there as a player.