Examining LeBron’s Legacy

LeBron James fell to 2-4 in the NBA Finals this year. Photo courtesy of USA Today
LeBron James fell to 2-4 in the NBA Finals this year. Photo courtesy of USA Today

LeBron James played like a man amongst boys in the NBA Finals this year. He averaged 35.8 points, 13.3 rebounds and 8.8 assists, leading not only his team in each of those categories, but every player that played in the Final, which is the first time in NBA Finals history that one guy led those three categories for an entire series.

Meanwhile, he lost his All-Star power forward in Kevin Love in the first round against Boston and then his All-Star point guard in Kyrie Irving in the first game of the Finals. Irving wasn’t 100% to begin with anyway, but him going down hurt Cleveland’s chances big time.

James accounted for 38.3% of his team’s points in the NBA Finals, which is second all time. Who scored more for his team, you ask? Michael Jordan, who had 38.4% of his team’s points in the 1993 Finals. Jordan literally beat LeBron by .1%. Not too shabby if you’re King James.

With all of that being said, this past NBA Finals has once again caused people to examine LeBron’s legacy. James officially became 2-4 in the Finals after the game 6 loss to Golden State, raising questions on whether or not we can consider LeBron one of the greatest of all time.

Before we go any farther, let me just state my opinion on LeBron James. I’ve never been the biggest supporter of LeBron, but I respect his on court talents. While things like “The Decision” and his constant complaining to the referees annoy me, I still acknowledge the fact that he is the greatest player of my generation. He’s easily been the best player since 2007, and he’s on pace to be a top five player of all time.

Now, in the past, this is usually a spot where I would bash LeBron, question his greatness, and try as hard as I can to discredit him for anything he’s done. But after the way this year’s Finals went down, nobody in the world should be saying a bad word about what James was able to do.

In past NBA Finals appearances, we’ve seen LeBron disappear. In 2007, with maybe the worst supporting cast of players in NBA Finals history, James was unable to win one game against the Spurs. In 2011 against the Mavericks, he completely fell off the map, once again losing out on a chance to win a title. In game 6 of the 2013 Finals, James had an awful fourth quarter before being bailed out by a Ray Allen three pointer. The Heat went on to win the title in 7 games in arguably the greatest Finals of all time.

You can’t question LeBron after this Finals, though. In actuality, I think this Finals helped LeBron’s legacy as one of the greatest players of all time. In basically the same position as 2007, he was able to will his team to two victories over the Warriors, a team that was the best from start to finish this season. He was able to win those two games after Irving went down with his broken kneecap in game 1, where everyone was calling for a Golden State sweep afterwards.

He did things in these Finals that were seemingly inhuman. He had two triple doubles and almost recorded a third in game 6, falling one assist short. I even remember saying something late in game 6 to the effect of “man, LeBron’s been quiet tonight.” And then they showed his stat line of 32 points, 18 rebounds, and 9 assists and I was like “holy cow.” Even when he’s having a “quiet” night he flirts with a triple double. That in itself speaks to the greatness of LeBron James.

There is no getting around the fact that while LeBron was brilliant in these Finals, he still fell to 2-4 overall when playing for the Larry O’Brien trophy. And for a lot of people, including myself, that means something. People are going to use that 2-4 record against him in any argument, whether he’s being compared to Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson, etc. While it is a knock against James, I don’t think it’s fair to make that the overriding factor in an argument.

Also, can people just drop the MJ/LeBron debate? I don’t think a sports topic has been more hotly debated then that one. The guys played different styles in different eras with different teammates and different opponents. Plus, LeBron still has more years to play. Who knows, maybe James does catch MJ in the title department. That would put him at a minimum of 6-4 overall, which would be 10 Finals appearances. Could you make an argument then that LeBron is better then MJ? Who knows. But the discussion of who’s better needs to stop immediately.

Lets not get caught up in the 2-4 Finals record for LeBron, at least for this year. This Finals loss is not about him at all. James had one of the greatest Finals of any individual player of all time, and we all should take a minute to lay off his losing record and truly appreciate his greatness.

Thanks for reading. Make sure to check out the other blogs I’ve posted, and stay tuned as I go more in-depth on all the things going on in the sports world. This is Game of Sports.

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