Monday, LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers lost game five of the NBA Finals at Oracle Arena, ending LeBron’s quest for a second straight championship and fourth of his career in his seventh straight finals appearance. Even after LeBron James averaged a triple double in the Finals for the first time in NBA history, people are still trying to hold the loss against King James and his legacy. Since the loss, NBA fans, analysts, ex-players, and even coaches have begun to insist that Kevin Durant is the best player in the National Basketball Association.
An argument that has persisted since LeBron James entered the league is that he will never be as good as Chicago Bulls legend, Michael Jordan. Fans have bickered for years about who the “GOAT” is, and after the recent loss to the best team in NBA history, people are ensuring that LeBron will never be able to surpass Jordan as the best player of all time.
While both Jordan and Durant are both legends, it is absolutely ridiculous to overlook LeBron James as not only the best player in the NBA but as the best player of all time. If anything, the loss has only boosted his argument as the GOAT, not diminish it.
First, let’s put a rest to this whole KD thing.
Prior to this year’s playoffs, did you EVER hear anyone say that Kevin Durant was the best player in the NBA? No? No. Kevin Durant has always been a great player, but prior to joining the 73 win Golden State Warriors, he was 4-18 against LeBron James’ teams. While he had a good first season and a great finals performance in his first season in Golden State, his numbers still don’t match up to those of the King. In his 14th season in the league, a time in most player’s career where they are beginning to slow down, LeBron was able to become the first player in Finals history to average a triple-double.
Kevin Durant 2017 Finals averages:
- Points: 35
- Rebounds: 8
- Assists: 5
LeBron James 2017 Finals averages:
- Points: 34
- Rebounds: 12
- Assists: 10
Sure, LeBron and the Cavs weren’t able to win the NBA Finals for a second straight year against the best team assembled. Sure, Golden State won in only five games. When you take a 73 win team and add another superstar to the starting lineup, you’re expected to do those kinds of things – I don’t care if you’re playing against MJ, Bird, or Magic. So keep in mind, we aren’t arguing that the Cavs are the best team in the league, we are proving that LeBron is the best player in the league – and he is. The numbers still prove it, and there is no question about it.
Michael Jordan was a remarkable talent, and arguably the best player to play basketball. However, even with as great as he was, there are a few reasons LeBron James should share the throne with him.
NBA fans today praise Jordan as the GOAT because he went six for six in the NBA Finals – and while that is an incredible accomplishment, let’s take a deeper look at MJs finals opponents:
91 Lakers – An older and slower Lakers team. Magic Johnson announced he was HIV-positive after the season and never played again. James Worthy and Byron Scott were out with injuries late in the series. Mike Dunleavy was a rookie coach.
92 Trail Blazers – Jordan was just a notch better than Clyde Drexler, but behind Drexler was just an average team of Blazers.
Barkley, Stockton, and Malone? – Legends, but zero rings combined.
How does this compare to James? LeBron has played against a full plate of all stars. He’s had to play against Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and the Gregg Popovich coached Spurs three times. He’s had to play against Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden and he beat them in five games. Oh and don’t forget, he had to play to play the record-setting 73 win Golden State Warriors and became the first player to ever overcome a 3-1 deficit. Although he hasn’t won every time, since when does going to the championship eight different times not mean anything?
We also tend to forget about Michael Jordan’s teammates and coach. Phil Jackson is an eleven time NBA Champion as a head coach. Scottie Pippen and the Bulls won 58 games the year after MJ went to go try out baseball, so obviously all the credit for the championships does not go solely to Jordan.
Let’s also not forget about the break that Jordan took between championships. Michael got to recharge physically and mentally during his 18 month break, while Hakeem Olajuwon and the Houston Rockets dominated the NBA and won two straight championships – a team that Jordan never had to face in the finals. By the time Jordan returned to the league, all his adversaries were reaching the back end of their careers.
Jordan and James are both legends and the best players to play in their respective eras, but it’s time to stop overlooking the King as the greatest over all basketball player of all time. He has already passed Jordan in total rebounds and assists, and is only behind Jordan in scoring by 3,505 points. That being said, LeBron averages a little over 2,000 points a year, so he is on a fast track to pass MJ in that statistic as well. And the best part? He’s not done. He might not even be close. He has shown no sign of slowing down even after 14 years in the league – so don’t be surprised when LeBron James is considered the GOAT when it’s all said and done, if not already.