Despite his history against Gregg Popovich and Co., and the fact that the Spurs got the best of him in two of those three series, James doesn't classify the dynamic between him and San Antonio as a rivalry.
"I don't want to say a rivalry," James said after practice Tuesday, a day before the Cleveland Cavaliers will welcome the Spurs to town.
"I've had an opportunity to be in three Finals against them and it's been extremely fun," he said. "I've always loved playing against them and playing against Pop. That's someone that I admire and I respect so much, obviously the Big Three as well. But I wouldn't say it's a rivalry. But I would say it's mutual respect, it's great competition and they definitely helped me grow along the way and hopefully I pushed them, too."
The Spurs helped push James back to Cleveland this past summer, as he left the Miami Heat to sign a free-agent contract with the Cavs after San Antonio beat Miami 4-1 in the Finals by an average of 18 points in those four wins.
"That's what happens in a series sometimes," James said. "It's the team that's clicking the most [that wins]. Obviously you got to have the talent. So, both teams came in with the talent. They were just playing at a much higher pace than we were at the time and they had everything clicking. They had the ball movement. They had guys that was making shots. They had the pace and the space and they had it going. And it resulted in them winning a championship."
While the Cavs have gone 5-4 through their first nine games, the Spurs went 15 years from their first championship with Popovich as the coach and Tim Duncan as their front-court anchor in 1999 to their victory over the Heat in 2014 with the same leadership tandem.
"I've had an opportunity to be in three Finals against them and it's been extremely fun. ... But I wouldn't say it's a rivalry. But I would say it's mutual respect, it's great competition and they definitely helped me grow along the way and hopefully I pushed them, too."LeBron James
Because of that continuity, James won't read too much into Wednesday's result.
"Win or lose, it's not a measuring stick," James said. "We want to play well. We want to get back to playing how we did a couple games ago and not [revert] back to last night [against Denver]. I think for us and we compete at a high level, we will give ourselves a chance to win. But it's not a measuring stick."
Earlier in the week James called the Spurs the New England Patriots of the NBA and Tuesday said Duncan has "won more games than all of our guys together, probably."
Not quite, but the Spurs' success is undeniable, with Popovich and Duncan combining for the most regular-season wins for a player/coach pair in league history (904) and Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili combining for the second-most wins (503) of any three-player group in league history, trailing only Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish combining for 540 with the Boston Celtics.
"We haven't seen it since the Bill Russell era in terms of the number of years and the continuity of the main core," Cavs coach David Blatt said.
Blatt has his own history with the Spurs organization, having been a guest of Popovich's on several occasions, including in the summer of 2008 when he brought the Russian national team to San Antonio for a pre-Olympic training camp.
"We talked about a lot of things," Blatt said. "I can tell you the one thing that really sticks out in my mind from that visit is me asking the coaches and [Spurs general manager] R.C. Buford and [Spurs director of scouting] Brian Pauga what it is that they look for when they look for a player and to a [ma] and without exception, the first word out of their mouths was 'character.' And I remember that. And I was so impressed by that."