LeBron James Image Credit: AFP

Oakland: LeBron James will attempt the most amazing achievement of his historic career by leading the twice-rebuilt Cleveland Cavaliers against heavily fancied defending champion Golden State in the 72nd NBA Finals.

The 33-year-old superstar reached his eighth consecutive finals seemingly by sheer force of will, lifting the Cavs on his shoulders throughout the NBA playoffs to book their fourth finals meeting in a row against the Warriors, with the best-of-seven championship series opening Thursday at Golden State.

This marks the first time in North American pro sports history that two clubs will meet in the final for a fourth consecutive season.

A title would cap the superlatives of an epic career because never has a James-led finals club been so huge an underdog as the Cavs are now. Las Vegas oddsmakers have the Warriors as the biggest NBA Finals favourites since 2002.

“We have an opportunity to play for a championship. That’s all that matters,” James said. “We’ve been counted out for a long time this season. It’s a heck of an accomplishment for our ball club.

“No matter what the storyline is going to be, no matter if we’re picked to win or not, let’s just go out and play.”

Rebuilding after the off-season trade of star guard Kyrie Irving, the Cavs struggled and were retooled again at the trade deadline, leaving James and forward Kevin Love alongside role players such as outside shooters J.R. Smith and Kyle Korver and inside man Tristan Thompson.

“I switched my mindset at the trade deadline to ‘Let’s get the most out of this season I can,’” James said. “I’m trying to squeeze the most out of this orange to where there’s no more juice left.”

Sceptics wonder how much juice James has left. He has seen 164 play-off games — the equal of two full extra seasons — from his first finals run with Miami to now.

And this year, in his 15th NBA campaign, James played all 82 regular season games, a career first, as he adjusted to ever-changing rosters.

“This has been one of the most challenging seasons I’ve had,” James said. “It has been six seasons in one. It has been a whirlwind. It has been a roller coaster. There has been everything that you can ask for.”

The Warriors seek their third crown in four seasons and sixth overall, which would match the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls for third on the all-time list behind Boston and the Los Angeles Lakers.

With Kevin Durant dominating inside, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson as 3-point sharpshooters and Draymond Green inside contributing rebounds and assists, the Warriors have been nearly as formidable as they were in last year’s title run.

“Somebody asked, it’s four years in a row getting to the finals, do you appreciate it? Yes, because it’s really hard,” Curry said. “All the smiles and embraces you have with your teammates, your coaches, it’s well deserved.”

Curry is also wary of dismissing James’s supporting cast.

“They are NBA players and yeah they are new and what not and ‘Bron is amazing. He played an unbelievable playoff run to date and has willed his team to his eighth straight finals and all that,” Curry said.

“It was an amazing performance, but don’t disrespect the other guys out there. They fought hard, too.”

Injuries could play a role, with Love uncertain for the opener while in the NBA concussion protocol and Golden State’s Andre Iguodala questionable with a sore left knee.