LeBron James on the Brink
Ever since LeBron James began his NBA career as the first overall pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers, it has always seemed as though he was destined to become one of the greatest men to play the game of basketball.
Now at the age of 31, LeBron has three NBA titles, three NBA Finals MVPs and four league MVPs. His regular season career averages are 27.2 PPG 7.2 RPG and 6.9 APG, while his playoff averages are 28 PPG 8.8 and RPG 6.8 APG. He is coming into the 2016-2017 season, months removed from winning, what he’ll call his favorite championship, years down the road - Cleveland’s first sports title in 50 years, but also the Cavaliers first NBA Championship as a franchise. Down 3-1 in the NBA Finals to the 73-win Golden State Warriors, LeBron lead the way as his team pulled off one of the greatest upsets in sports history. Last season the Cleveland Cavaliers became the first team in NBA Finals history to come back down 3-1 in the finals.
Where is this all going? Great question!
It’s about that “ghost” James alluded to chasing this past offseason – the ghost of Michael Jordan. Jordan is considered by the vast majority as the greatest basketball player to ever touch the court. He was a six-time NBA Champion, being named Finals MVP each time, to go along with five league MVPs and countless other accolades. Jordan was known for his “killer instinct” and was as fierce a competitor as they come. When he was on the court he’d break down his opponents not just physically, but mentally.
Jordan only played 15 seasons in the league and retired twice during that stretch, losing four years of his career. His regular season averages were 30.1 PPG 6.2 RPG 5.3 APG, while in the postseason he averaged 33.4 PPG 6.4 RPG and 5.7 APG. When it came to “Money time”, there has yet to be a player that you’d rather have take the last shot. He simply pushed himself to win, and in six finals appearances, Jordan won all six. However, prior to going undefeated in the NBA Finals it’s important to note his playoff struggles early on in his career. In his first three years he failed to make it out of the first round. An of his 13 years of playoff basketball he only advanced on to the finals six times.
So again you’re wondering where this is going. First, look past the years played on both of these stars. Second, look past LeBron’s 3-4 Finals record.
Now listen. Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player of all-time. I’m not questioning his greatness. However, the gap between Michael and LeBron has never been closer. Despite being 3-4 in the NBA Finals James is on the brink of surpassing Jordan and that could happen as soon as the end of the 2016-2017 season.
At the age of 31, LeBron James has been to the previous six NBA Finals, seven in total. Three times he emerged victorious. At the same age, Jordan had three titles in three straight finals appearances. We know how Jordan finished his career - he came back to the league after retiring and won another three rings.
To those who discredit James for his finals losses, do you discredit an Olympian for getting silver? No, that’s absurd. LeBron James has never been eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, something not even Jordan could avoid. We should be impressed that this man finds his way to the biggest stage seemingly year in and out. In fact, in three of his four losses, LeBron’s team was actually the underdog going into the series.
The 2007 Cavaliers stood no chance against the San Antonio Spurs and were only there thanks to LeBron’s early round heroics.
In 2011 against the Dallas Mavericks, LeBron didn’t have that excuse. I know the Mavericks beat the Los Angeles Lakers and Oklahoma City Thunder en route to the finals, and came into the series hot, but they were not the better team. LeBron James played some of the worst basketball of his career, and they lost in six games.
In his last year with Miami, they were once again underdogs. However, that was the last hurrah for the San Antonio Spurs who simply were better and deeper than the hobbled Heat.
Now for his return to Cleveland. The Cavs were a team coming off winning the number one pick in the draft and LeBron turned them into title contenders overnight. Not only that, he took them to the finals that first year. Unfortunately, during the series, the Cavaliers were without Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving due to injury. This left LeBron to put up one of the best performances in not just NBA Finals history, but for LeBron James it was his best finals performance period. The Cavs would fall to the Warriors in six games, however LeBron would go on an average 35.8 points, 13.3 rebounds and 8.8 assists. Was even in talks to receive Finals MVP on a losing team for the first time since Jerry West.
The next year, however, LeBron James got his revenge in the best way possible for Cleveland's first NBA title.
The Golden State Warriors are again the favorites to win it all after signing Kevin Durant in the offseason. The trend continues of LeBron James being in the underdog position. If LeBron James manages to lead the Cavaliers to the finals for a third straight year, LeBron’s seventh straight year, and once again finds a way to overcome the odds, He will not have only closed the gap between Jordan and himself, but he will be on the brink of passing Jordan’s legacy.
LeBron James would be 4-4 in the Finals against Jordans 6-0, with seven straight years in the finals all at the age of 32. Jordan was 4-0 at the age of 32, it’s time we stop lessening LeBron James on his finals loses. Again compare it to an olympian who places silver, we don’t discredit them. LeBron at this pace has the chance of making the NBA Finals another three or four times, hell maybe more. LeBron James is a title away this upcoming season from tying Jordan's legacy and one title after that from passing Jordan. We’re on the brink of LeBron James becoming the greatest player in NBA history.