June 04, 2016

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) The Logo has no patience for critics of LeBron James.

Hall of Famer Jerry West mounted an impassioned defense of James on Saturday, saying those who criticize the Cleveland Cavaliers star's 2-4 NBA Finals record are ''ridiculous.''

''If I were him, frankly, I'd probably want to strangle you guys,'' West told a group of media members. ''It's ridiculous.''

James has won four MVP awards and two titles and has long been considered the best basketball player in the world. If the Cavaliers lose again this year to the Golden State Warriors, he would be the fourth player in league history to lose in the finals five times.

''He's carried teams on his shoulders,'' said West, now an executive board member and consultant with the Warriors, who lead the rematch 1-0 heading into Game 2 on Sunday. ''They've been to the Finals six straight times. How many times have they been the favorite? None. Zero. Ok? Grossly unfair to him.

''I don't want to sound like Donald Trump, but it's hard for me to believe that someone doesn't recognize his greatness. It's hard for me to believe. This guy does everything. He's like a Swiss Army knife. He does everything. And he's competitive as hell. And frankly, I wish people would leave him alone.''

West has long admired James as a player and competitor and has spoken to him in the past about dealing with failure on the game's biggest stage. West went 1-8 in the finals with the Los Angeles Lakers, a record that he admits still burns him four decades after his playing career ended.

''No fun to get there that many times and not to get the results you want, regardless of how you played,'' West said. ''In the playoffs, the best players are supposed to play better. I did. It made no difference. We weren't good enough, obviously.''

West was the finals MVP in 1969, the only player to ever win that award as a member of the losing team. James received some consideration for that last season when he averaged 35.8 points, 13.3 rebounds and 8.8 assists in a six-game loss to the Warriors.

James was re-reading West's book ''West by West: My Charmed, Tormented Life'' earlier in these playoffs.

''There's no question he kept them in the series,'' West said about last year when the Cavaliers lost Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love to injuries. ''Now we'll see what happens with a full complement of players. I think that's what makes this more interesting than a year ago.''

West hasn't been around the Warriors quite as much recently while he worked through some minor health issues, but he said he has thoroughly enjoyed working with a team that has risen to the top of the league.

''It's a thrill to be involved,'' the 78-year-old West said, ''in particular at this point in my life, that they thought I had something that maybe I could contribute to them.''

He spent a little time on the practice court on Saturday chatting with Warriors star Stephen Curry.

''I'm just part of a group here that I love to be around,'' West said. ''A lot of great people around here. It's fun to be around a lot of young people. They keep you young.''

West always downplays his impact on the organization and is quick to dismiss any questions about advice or guidance he provides. But Curry and others say he has made a big difference.

''Just hearing him talk and the little things that he sees, especially from my game, you know, how to use leverage with your hands and use your body to create space, little things like that that he was so good at, that's invaluable advice,'' Curry said.

''But for the most part it's kind of him sensing the temperature of the team when he comes around and giving us a little something that might help us is important. It's obviously `The Logo,' so you take his advice strongly.''

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