Will Kyrie Irving's Soon to Be Exit Impact the Legacy of LeBron James?
Kyrie Irving sent shock waves throughout the basketball world when he requested a trade from the Cleveland Cavaliers owner, Dan Gilbert. This mind boggling ordeal comes after the Cleveland Cavaliers third consecutive trip to the NBA Finals, one of which resulted in a championship.
Now it is LeBron James who is forced to face his own future legacy. Without Irving (who averaged 25 points per game in 2017) and his clutch late-game performances, James has to wonder whether he will have as sure of a road through the Eastern Conference, perhaps jeopardizing a potential eighth consecutive trip to the Finals.
James’ basketball dominance comes without question or doubt as he is widely regarded as the best player on the planet; his name is already stamped all over the NBA history books. Whether Lebron can continue his reign is contingent on many things, one of them being the talent that surrounds him. Unfortunately, with their current roster, the chance of LeBron winning another title seems very slim.
After Cleveland’s miraculous comeback from a 3-1 deficit against the Golden State Warriors in 2016, many saw the window closing on LeBron with regards to winning another ring. With the acquisition of Kevin Durant, the Golden State Warriors seem unstoppable, the San Antonio Spurs are still extremely tough to beat and the Minnesota Timberwolves are gearing up for what looks like an all-out war in the West.
Staying in the weakened Eastern Conference is surely helping James legacy, as his path to the Finals seems unstoppable. The question idling in everyone’s mind is Does another championship define how great LeBron really is. James boasts career averages of 27.1 points per game, 7.3 rebounds, 7 assists and 1.6 steals. James has been to a staggering 7 consecutive NBA Finals with two separate teams. He has 3 championships with 3 Finals MVPs to match.
Deemed “The Chosen One” upon entering the league, James has more than lived up to expectations, but it’s his decisions that have changed the course of public opinion. Choosing to team up with fellow all-stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in 2010 not only vilified James, but catching up to Michael Jordan status was halted. Though James was without question the best player in the league, creating a super team to win his first championship has been widely looked down upon. After his departure from Miami, going 2-2 in the Finals, he returned home to Cleveland with the formation of yet another super team.
Irving and James has surely been a fiery, dynamic duo and unstoppable on most occasions. Facing the juggernaut that has been created in Golden State for many years to come, unless James is meshed with another superstar, Irving’s departure will surely prevent any future championship for “the King.” James has depended on Irving’s clutch shots and ability to score for help during the playoffs.
Currently, James is 3-5 all time in the Finals. It’s a pretty shabby record compared to that of Jordan’s 6-0 or even Kobe Bryant’s 5-1. Though James has a basketball IQ amongst the highest we’ve ever seen, history shows that players are mostly measured constantly by championships. One will never know how many championships Jordan would’ve won without Scottie Pippen. Without Irving, James legacy will truly be tested as every Batman needs their Robin.
Settling on three championships may not solidify James’ position as the greatest basketball player ever, but James has dominated the last decade of basketball on every end of the spectrum. His influence reaches far beyond the court. James has advocated for players and has forced front offices to take a back seat to players and their needs. Since 2003, James has impacted the NBA’s sales, viewership and market size by more than three times that of any other player in the league. James has set the standards for all players, helping to raise max contracts by a staggering 22.5% over the last three seasons. James has set the “blueprint” for players to follow to become better on and off the court. This will surely have great impact on how his Legacy ends.