Is he the Greatest Of All-Time? To answer that question in the affirmative, some folks believe that LeBron James must defeat these Golden State Warriors, after requiring he defeat them last year and the year before that. By having any spots, his Finals record already pales in comparison to Michael Jordan’s, albeit in a vastly different basketball landscape.
This fact alone seems to power most of the counterarguments against James, whose shadow grows with every impossibility realized. And yet, it is never enough. What would silence the criticism?
Allora, in a word, nothing.
LeBron James is having one of the greatest individual Finals series ever, averaging 32 points, 12.3 rebounds and 10.3 assists on 55% from the field, including 38% from three. This, after he slayed the dragon last year and had a similarly stellar performance in the 2015 Finals in a losing effort.
This year’s dragon, however, is much more menacing, a coldly calculating beast that took the greatest regular season team ever and swapped out Harrison Barnes for Kevin Durant. Read that last part again: the greatest regular season team ever and swapped out Harrison Barnes for Kevin Durant.
It took an effort even Hercules wouldn’t have been able to manage last year to bring Cleveland its first sports championship in half a century. In doing that, LeBron fulfilled his promise. The once and future King James split the Red Sea and brought Northeast Ohio to the land of milk and honey.
And yet – because, with LeBron, it’s always and yet – his Finals record stands at 3-4, and it stands to fall even further, if not tonight then likely in Game 5. LeBron could fire the moon out of the sky, standing on Tristan Thompson’s shoulders with a slingshot, and people would complain that he didn’t ever compete in a Dunk Contest. So it goes.
What we’re seeing right now is a 32-year-old whose powers not only have not diminished, but seem to have grown stronger with age. He is the wine he holds so dearly with his Banana Boat friends. Savor him, as he is not forever.
At some point, some Eastern Conference team is going to topple LeBron, or he’ll make it easy for them and simply retire, fourteen consecutive Finals or thereabouts to close his career. For all the talk this season on what MVP actually means, or is, it may be best to recognize LeBron with a strict definition of that middle letter’s parent. Russell Westbrook may win the season’s MVP, and Kevin Durant may very well win the Finals MVP, but LeBron James is the world’s most valuable player.
He’s grown cranky, become irritable, and it’s easy to see why. He essentially handpicked a team that strolled through the East yet again, only to be met by an all-time stockpile of nuclear weaponry. So be it. LeBron will fight in Game 4, in his characteristically brilliant and borderline-defiant fashion, and that will be that. Then the Warriors will be back next year, and so will he.
What does LeBron owe us? What does he have to do to become the Greatest Of All Time? It’s a worthless hypothetical, one without an answer to some. But to the rest, his prowess is self-evident. No use fighting if you’ve already won.