LeBron James has tasted defeat four times in NBA Finals now but that does not make it any easier to swallow. In fact, losing to Golden State hurt so much he would rather miss out on the playoffs altogether than lose another championship series.
James led the way for Cleveland with 32 points, 18 rebounds and nine assists in Game Six on Tuesday but it was not enough to carry the Cavaliers to victory over the Warriors.
Golden State picked up their first title in 40 years with the 105-97 win in Cleveland.
"When you fall short it hurts," James told reporters. "I'm starting to (think) I'd rather not even make the playoffs than to lose in the Finals. It would hurt a lot (less)."
James finished with averages of 35.8 points, 13.3 rebounds and 8.8 assists for the six games, becoming the first player to lead both teams in total points, rebounds and assists in a Finals series.
There was talk he could follow Jerry West (1969) and become just the second player to win the Finals MVP despite losing the series, but that honour went to Golden State's Andre Iguodala, who hounded James throughout the matchup.
In the end, effort could not make up for a depleted roster.
The Cavs lost All Star guard Kyrie Irving to a knee injury in the series opener and All Star forward Kevin Love to a shoulder ailment in the first round of the playoffs.
"We never asked for sympathy when they went down," said coach David Blatt. "We never made an excuse and I certainly won't do that now. The Warriors were better."
The result of losing two key players was that Cleveland had to feed James the ball more, but the increased workload saw him make just 39 percent of his shots.
"I don't enjoy being as non-efficient as I was. I don't enjoy dribbling the ball for countless seconds on the shot clock with the team looking at me to make a play," James said.
"That's not winning basketball. It was what I had to do, what was needed. We ran out of talent."