No one thought Cleveland would win this series. Golden State had had the winningest season of all time. They had won last year. Cleveland was overmatched, didn’t have the depth. It was the best player in the game (Steph Curry) vs LeBron, who’s past his prime, a shadow of his former greatness.
And the series began as many expected. Golden State up 2-0. Cleveland responded well at home but lost a hard fought game four. The series was effectively over. Many expected the team to roll over. In game 5, without Draymond Green, the Cavs dominated. In game six, with Green back, Cleveland wouldn’t be able to keep up. But the won again.
Tonight, Cleveland can do something historic, come back from 3-1 to win. They can win their first championship as a franchise. They can bring the first title back to Cleveland since 1964. Many will still assume Golden State will win.
But Cleveland can play with this team.
Cleveland has shown more heart. They have grit. Golden State imploded. Steph Curry threw a hissy fit when he fouled out. Klay Thompson walked off the court before time had expired (something for which LeBron would have been vilified). Steve Kerr was fined for criticizing calls. It was ugly.
The pressure is on Golden State. No one cares about a 73 win season if you don’t finish the deal. It’s crazy. But that’s reality. “If you’re not first your last,” as Ricky Bobby told us.
Most fans of basketball view Michael Jordan as the greatest player of all time.
LeBron James is on the short list of the greatest ever, but he’s not Michael. And so he gets talked about as if he’s a bum, because he’s not quite as good as the greatest player to ever play the game.
I’ve heard LeBron referred to as “overrated.”
LeBron is so good that his run-of-the-mill, average nightly performance throughout a season makes him one of the greatest players of all time. He averages 27 points 7 assists and 7 rebounds a game, for his career! Doing that in a game might not sound all that impressive. Guys do it for a season. No one but LeBron has done that for a career.
People have said he’s not a great scorer, or he’s not a legitimate first option as a scorer, but he’s eleventh all time (and will likely finish in the top five all time). He’s 30th all time with 1,343 three point field goals (Michael Jordan had 581 for his career).
LeBron is in the top twenty all time in both scoring and assists, the only other player to be in the top twenty of both categories is Oscar Robertson. And James is a forward! Who handles the ball like a point guard. He is the all time leader in assists for a forward.
He’s 24th all time in steals. He also has 7,000 career rebounds.
We can say other players were better. But LeBron is as well rounded a player as there has ever been in this game.
In game 7’s of playoff series, he’s the all time leader in scoring average. But he doesn’t get it done when it counts.
He’s the only NBA player to have ever been player of the month five times in a single season.
In a conference finals game during his first stint in Cleveland, he scored 25 consecutive Cavs points (a playoff record).
LeBron is basically the Most Interesting Man in the World of basketball statistics.
People will argue, “well Jordan was a great competitor. Jordan had that killer instinct.” It’s true that LeBron has lost more finals than he’s won. One of the things about the greatness of James that I feel no one ever mentions: coaches. Michael Jordan played under Phil Jackson, one of the greatest coaches ever. Kobe also won his titles with Phil. Shaq won with Phil and Pat Riley. Magic won four of his five championships with Riley.
LeBron has gone to the finals under: Mike Brown, Erik Spoelstra, David Blatt, and Tyronn Lue. And he has taken all of these guys to the finals. Blast and Lue in their first seasons as NBA head coaches, Brown in his second, and Spoelstra in his third season.
In this year’s finals, we have witnessed one of the all time great performances. In consecutive games, James has scored 41 points. He’s averaged 30/11/8 for the series. He leads BOTH teams in scoring, rebounding, assists, blocks, and steals. Most. well. rounded. player. ever.
LeBron is often seen as a villain. He’s never been in trouble off the court. Some people still seem to want to see him fail because of “the Decision.” But that makes no sense. He’s back in Cleveland! Not wanting LeBron to win because of how he left Cleveland?! He’s back. To still want him to fail is to still want the fans that he left years ago to fail.
James has had 2,000 points, 500 assists, 500 rebounds, and 100 steals in a season in seven different seasons (only player ever). He also once did it in four consecutive seasons (also a record). He’s scored at least 20 points in the playoffs, 174 times (record). In the playoffs, he’s in the top 10 in points, rebounds, assists and, steals (only player in the top ten in each of those categories).
There are the people who trash Cavs fans for welcoming him back. When James returned to Cleveland, he wrote a piece in Sports Illustrated. It was humble and showed contrition. It wasn’t making excuses and talked about his love for Ohio. But some had to be cynical and undermine his sincerity.
People never cut LeBron slack. In physics, for every actions, there is an equal and opposite reaction. For every reason why LeBron is one of the greatest ever, there is a negative and unfair reason given to undercut LeBron’s accomplishments.
Excited for game seven tonight. I’m a fan of the Cavs. I know many of my Cleveland friends care more about this game than I do. For them especially, I want this win. I want Cleveland to have a championship, because it’s a championship caliber place.
Regardless of the outcome, I’m proud of this team.
If a LeBron team loses again, that doesn’t diminish his greatness on the court. He has again shown why he’s one of the all time greats.