CLEVELAND -- LeBron James has reached a sublime level that few athletes have ever achieved: He has normalized absolute greatness.
On Monday, James scored 44 points for the Cavaliers in a vital Eastern Conference finals victory -- 111-102 over the Boston Celtics to tie the series at 2-2. It was his sixth 40-point game in the 15 he has played this postseason. He did it playing a version of big brother ball that some like to criticize him for not exploiting at every chance, scoring 13 baskets in the paint, the second most in his playoff career.
He now has 22 30-point playoff games and four 40-point playoff games against the glorious Celtics franchise, moving into Wilt Chamberlain and Jerry West territory. He passed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for most baskets in postseason history (in five fewer games). He already has the most points and steals among anyone in playoff history.
And when it was over, there was a collective shrug. James was nonchalant after the game, talking about the need to take some series momentum to Boston for Game 5. He spent significantly more time after the game praising Kyle Korver (14 points, three blocks) and Tristan Thompson (13 points and 12 rebounds, to go with strong defense) than talking about anything he did.
In the locker room as he iced his body after yet another 40-minute outing, James was talking to his 3-year-old daughter, Zhuri, on FaceTime when she asked to talk to Kevin Love. James passed the phone to Love and Zhuri complimented Love on his game, which included 3-of-12 shooting, five turnovers and five fouls.
"I think you meant to say that to your dad," Love said. "I don't know what game you were watching."
Not only is little Zhuri immune from her father's routine awesomeness, Love's compliment was about the only praise coming from James' teammates. They're so used to seeing it, it doesn't require remarks.
Thompson's excellent game -- he had two of the Cavs' eight blocks, one of the reasons the Celtics missed a frustrating 19 shots in the paint in Game 4 -- got him invited to the podium. There he was asked about James' game ... on the eighth question.
"It's been huge," Thompson said. "He's the captain of our team."
That's accurate. But James had just played a game that would've been the greatest career performance for about 99 percent of the NBA, and Thompson moved through remarking on it like he would any other routine task. He was hardly alone.
Korver held court for 15 minutes after the game. He talked about being compared to Dikembe Mutombo, golf, how his dive on the floor for a loose ball reminded people of Pete Rose and how he liked being 36 years old way more than he likes being 37 -- "I wish I was 36; I loved being 36" -- and only mentioned James' incredible game in passing.
James is averaging 32 points, 6.8 rebounds and 9 assists on 54 percent shooting, including 39 percent from 3-point range, in a conference finals series in which his team is fighting an uphill battle that's as challenging as any East series he has played in eight years. Yet there was some discussion about how he had six turnovers and just one assist after halftime on Monday.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens had to defend his defensive strategies against James -- Boston switched on pick-and-rolls and it sometimes left an undersized Terry Rozier on James -- as if James hasn't scored 1,107 career playoff points against the Celtics franchise and vaporized the organization the past four times he has seen it in the playoffs.
When taken with a little perspective, it's hard to comprehend. But it's James' own fault; he has been so great for so long that he has turned transcendent into mundane.
This week, a former student at James' high school in Akron, Ohio, started a GoFundMe account looking to raise money to erect a statue in James' honor in the city. He is the most famous resident in the history of the entire region. He has donated millions to its schools and children. And two years ago, he won Cleveland its first pro sports title in 52 years. That he doesn't already have a statue is an upset.
"Any time I'm in the same breath with the greats," James said about passing Abdul-Jabbar, "I know you guys hear me say it over and over, it's just humbling."
Maybe no one is saying it enough.